§ 2.42 p.m.
§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair.]
§ Clause 39:
§ Certain road transport undertakings to be acquired by Commission.
§ (2) In this Part of this Act, the expression "ordinary long distance carriage" means, in relation to an undertaking, the carriage of 829 goods by the person carrying on the undertaking for a distance of forty miles or upwards in one goods vehicle or a succession of goods vehicles, in such circumstances that the vehicle, or, as the case may be, one or more of the vehicles, is, at some time during the carriage, more than twenty-five miles from its operating centre:
§ Provided that the carriage of liquids carried in bulk in a tank permanently fixed to the vehicle, or in a tank not so fixed of which the capacity is not less than five hundred gallons, ordinary furniture removals, the carriage of meat. the carriage of livestock and any carriage effected wholly in vehicles specially constructed to carry abnormal indivisible loads shall not be treated as ordinary long distance carriage.
§ (3) The distance of forty miles mentioned in subsection (2) of this section shall, notwithstanding anything in section thirty-four of the Interpretation Act, 1889, be measured along the route actually take by the vehicle or vehicles in question.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "that" to insert "the carriage of goods in a vehicle under "A" licence subject to a contract limiting its use to the goods of a single undertaking." The noble Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name. The Amendment is the same (or is intended to be the same and, I think, is the same in effect) as an Amendment to line 32, standing in the names of the noble Viscounts, Lord Simon, Lord Bridgman and Lord Long. That Amendment proposes to count among the traffics excluded from this clause—traffic which will not count as ordinary long distance haulage—"the carriage of goods in a vehicle authorized for use under a licence granted under subsection (1) of Section 7 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933."
That section of the Road and Rail Traffic Act refers to vehicles which are licensed to be used only if a contract for carrying the goods of a particular undertaking is made, the contract to be for not less than a year. So the effect of that Amendment and my Amendment is the same, though it is possible, as a matter of the legal wording, that the Amendment of the other noble Lords is the better, as it is more strictly accurate. On the other hand, my Amendment has the advantage of being self-explanatory and of coming in a slightly better place in the Bill. That is say, it deals with this problem of "A" contract vehicles before one gets to the different kinds of goods which are carried, whereas the other Amendment spatch- 830 cocks this kind of vehicle in between meat and livestock. I hope it will be convenient to other noble Lords to debate the question upon my Amendment, and thereafter I shall be very happy to fall in with any arrangement which may give effect to our common object.
The Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933, as we all know, provides for the three classes of licences—"A," "B" and "C"—"A" and "B" being licences granted to people who are hiring out their vehicles for use to others ("A" wholly to others and "B" when they are used partly for others and partly for themselves), whereas "C" licences are granted only for the carriage of one's own goods—the goods of that particular undertaking. The Act makes a definite distinction between "A," "B" and "C" licences, in so far as under Section 6 it gives the licensing authority absolute discretion to grant or refuse an "A." or "B" licence. The authority, in fact, considers whether there is real need for the licence, in addition to the existing licences, whereas the authority has no discretion with regard to the "C" licence, but must grant the licence unless there is a definite personal reason which suggests that the licensee is unfit to hold it.
Then Section 1 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act applies to the "A" contract. licences—that is to say. the vehicles which are hired out for sole use by one undertaking—exactly the same principles as under Section 6 are applied to the "C" licences proper. It says that in such cases, if the licensing author Ay is satisfied that the vehicle is going to be used only under a contract with a person who is not himself a haulier, for the carrying of goods of that person for any continuous period of less than one year, then the licence shall be granted, and there is no discretion to refuse it. In other words, the policy of the Road and Rail Traffic Act is to give the "A" contract licence and the "C" licence identical treatment. That, I suggest, is a very sensible procedure, because the "A" contract licence and the "C" licence are to serve the same purpose of enabling a man to make sure that he has the vehicle to carry his own goods. In some cases he owns the vehicle, and is liable for its service; in other cases he gets the sole use of a particular vehicle for a year at a time, but he is not liable 831 for its maintenance—that is contracted out. It is simply the difference between the direct employment of a chauffeur and a contract for the vehicle.
The object of the "A" contract licence and the "C" licence is the same. Take, as an example, the case of the laundries. You will find that many laundries, and perhaps the majority of them, have "C" licences for their own vehicles, which they own, operate and repair. But others find it more convenient, instead of going to the trouble of having their own vehicles, to hire a vehicle for a year at a time, which can be used for only that purpose. They very often get the vehicle painted with the name of their laundry, and nobody would know it is not an ordinary laundry vehicle. It is not an ordinary laundry vehicle, but that is what it is used for. The same thing applies in many other industries of various kinds. This arrangement enables business men to suit their methods to their circumstances. I suggest to your Lordships that that is a rather elementary but useful freedom to preserve in this country. It will be found, in fact, that the use of the "A" contract licence has proved very popular. Before the war, from 1936 to 1938, it grew. from 3,000 or 4,000 to something like 10,000. I am not suggesting that that means deducting 10,000 from the number of vehicles which the Government are taking over. It would not mean anything of the sort as most of them are probably used over short distances. I give those figures merely to show how popular is this method of meeting business needs.
If this Amendment is not accepted, and if the Bill passes in the form which treats the "A" contract licence like an ordinary "A" licence, and not like a "C" licence, as it is treated under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, again I am quite sure that there will be additional pressure for people to get "C" licences. Although I think everybody ought to be able to take out a "C" licence if he wants to, it is not in itself a very efficient method of transport. People who prefer to hire a vehicle will have to get their own vehicle, and at the end of a year of its use, instead of being available, possibly, to be hired to somebody else, there will arise the difficulty of changed ownership. The "C" licence method is a less flexible method than the "A" contract licence, although 832 I suggest it is a pure Committee point as to whether the "A" contract licence is assimilated according to the policy of the Road and Rail Traffic Act to the "C" licence, or whether, because it happens to be called an "A" licence, it is assimilated to the "A" licences. This is a pure Committee point, and, let me add, a point which has not been discussed hitherto anywhere.
It may be of interest to your Lordships to know how this matter was dealt with in another place. I have carefully studied the report of the Committee in the other place. What happened was that when the clause corresponding to Clause 39 (it was then Clause 40 in the Bill) was before the Committee, one of the members assumed from something the Minister had said that the Minister meant to treat "A" contract licences as "C" licences, and he was exceedingly pleased. The Minister then disillusioned him. There was about three minutes casual chat about this, no Amendment was moved, and the Committee passed on to the clause which corresponds to our present Clause 52 (it was then Clause 53). There, on the twenty-second sitting, on March 20, 1947 (I shall be happy to supply copies of this report to anyone who is interested) at 11.45 a.m. Mr. Assheton asked the Minister, who had made a speech without referring to this question at all, to say why he wanted to assimilate the "A" contract licence to the "A" licence, and not to the "C" licence There was no answer to that, and, indeed, there could be no answer, because the Minister and everybody else was duly guillotined at 12 o'clock. An Amendment was put down to move, without a word of discussion, and was duly voted down by 22 votes to 18. That is how they dealt with this question, which I invite your Lordships to consider to-day, in another place. May I go on to say that there was no discussion on this matter so far as I have been able to discover—and I have read the reports with care—on the Report stage? This point comes before this House as a virgin problem, and I hope the House will deal with it with a real understanding of the problems.
The same question arises again on Clause 52. What we are concerned with on Clause 39 is merely determining the figures that will go into the sums which the Commission will spend next year—or probably more than next year. If we 833 are going to give the same freedom to the "A" contract licences under Clause 52 as we do to the "C" licences, it would be illogical not to exempt them also from Clause 39. It is not really open to serious argument that, if you attach any importance whatever to enabling business men to suit their methods to their circumstances you ought, without in any way conflicting with the main purpose or policy of the Bill, to say that the "A" contract licence is the equivalent of a "C" licence in another form, and not the equivalent of an "A" licence. I do hope the Government, who began this Committee so excellently by accepting Amendments but who have not quite kept up to the standard they set themselves on the first day, will now return to that standard. I beg to move.
Amendment moved—.Page 48, line 29, after ("that") insert. ("the carriage of goods in a vehicle under "A" licence subject to a contract limiting its use to the goods of a single undertaking").—(Lord Beveridge.)
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I should like to support this Amendment. I think that the noble Lord who has just spoken was right when he said that the Amendment lower down on the Paper in the names of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, the noble Viscount, Lord Long, and myself, is to the same effect or, at any rate, is intended to be to the same effect. I agree with both the observations which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, made about the relation of these Amendments. It seems to me, as a matter of convenient arrangement, that if such an Amendment as this is introduced at all, the place to introduce it is on page 48, line 29, after "that," because it is dealing with the exclusion of a particular class, whereas later in the clause it has to do with the particular kind of goods which are being carried. Of course, that is a matter which will he easily adjusted under the advice of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, arid the advisers of the Government. I must say, as regards the language, that after you get as far as the words "the carriage of goods in a vehicle," I think the words we put down are rather better than the words of the noble Lord's Amendment, because they do in terms adopt exactly the language of the Statute. I have not consulted with my noble friend, but if he 834 is prepared to move that Amendment, making the substitution at that point, I daresay that will be a rather more convenient or precise form. However, that is only a question of when and how.
The real point as I see it, and I would present it to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, is this. I suppose that at present the railways, in the matter of goods, are common carriers. They carry for everybody, and they do not make a special contract to carry for one person and not to carry for another; they satisfy all the community. I should suppose—although I speak subject to the views of others—that as things stand at the moment, it is at least doubtful whether road haulage is an example of common carriage. I should suppose that a road haulier is entitled to say, "No, 1 will not take your goods; I prefer to take so and so's", which is what the common carrier cannot do. What will happen here is that the Government, in so far as they take over road haulage, are, I apprehend, to be in a position of a common carrier; but when the Government run these road vehicles I am sure they will not claim to say, "We prefer to carry X's goods rather than Y's". So far as they are doing that they are pursuing a logical and a consistent plan.
There are, however, two cases under these "A", "B" and "C" licences which can in no circumstances be called common carrier cases. One of them, of course, is the "C" licence, where a man, so far from carrying for all and sundry, is carrying for nobody but himself, and the carrying is a portion of his own business. In another place at an earlier stage, the Government decided to drop from the Bill any claim to take over a business if it was that of a mere "C" licence. I have no doubt there were strong grounds for their doing so, and I expect they pleased a. good many of their supporters as well. Really, the Man who has an "A" contract licence is in a position which is closely analagous to that of the man with a "C" licence, and not in the least in a position which corresponds with what will no doubt be the obligations of the Government in dealing with road traffic and carrying for all arid sundry. The man making use of an "A" contract licence is a man who has the right, by contract with somebody who owns a road vehicle or road vehicles, under which it is secured that the road vehicle will be used for his 835 business and his business alone. The instance which was given just now is familiar enough, and I have no doubt that there are heaps of these vehicles running round the streets of London and other towns labelled with well-known names, the names of great shops in Oxford Street or wherever it may be, which look as though they were the property of that particular shop, although really and truly they are hired under a contract with a man who has an "A" contract licence and who undertakes to carry that particular client's goods and nobody else's.
Are the Government to undertake that sort of work? There is the classical instance, to which we have been referred from time to time, of the Post Office; no one suggests that the Government Post Office will undertake to carry one man's letters but nobody else's. The essence of the thing is that a public service, run on behalf of the whole country out of public money, by the Government, is a service that must be rendered to all alike. Vet the essence of an "A" contract licence is that the service is not rendered to all alike but is rendered to one single individual. I should have thought that on that ground it is quite analogous to the contract "C "licence, and it would raise a most curious situation if the Government said, "We are the Transport authority now. It is to us you have to apply and, of course, if the firm of "so and so" want to arrange a contract with us to have so many vehicles to carry no goods except their own, we shall be ready to oblige." That seems to me to he wholly contrary to every idea of a Government service. I mentioned the case of the Post Office. Let us suppose that the Government become the transport authority in respect of trains. It would be monstrous if the Government were prepared to say, "Well, we will sell you the right to travel in this train, provided that nobody else goes"; yet that is the nature of the contract "A" licence.
If you take shipping, it is rather close to a charter. I hope the day will never come when some Government—may I say with great respect, more misguided than this—will undertake the seemingly ridiculous task of nationalizing our ocean shipping. God save us if that ever happened. But if they did do it, would they really say, "We have a fleet of vessels here, and we are prepared to arrange for one of them to be chartered by a particular firm, for 836 the purpose of carrying their goods from A to B"? That is quite inconsistent with the notion of a Government service. A Government service is a service, I presume, in which every member of the public has equal rights, and if he pays the proper sum he will receive the same service. If I understand it—and it is possible I have not understood it quite rightly—that is not the case with an "A" contract licence. It is essentially an arrangement in which one person, and nobody else, receives a particular service.
There are other grounds, I am sure, which will be put forward by those who know this subject in a more practical way than perhaps I do, and I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, and the noble Viscount, Lord Long, are supporting the Amendment; we shall hear what they have to say. But on those grounds I submit that this is a matter in which, without in the least destroying the principle of this Bill, a concession will be justified. This is a matter which was passed without any material consideration at all in another place, and which justifies us in this House in calling attention—indeed, compels us to call attention—to these, as matters hitherto never explained or defended at all. I am glad to think they can be fully ventilated in this House. I am sure the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, desires to have the Bill in the shape which is right and proper by conceding the principle which is involved in this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am not going to claim that this Amendment is one of the most important brought forward, but I certainly do claim that the situation which it is seeking to remedy is one of the most nonsensical in the Bill and that is saying a great deal. I do not wish to follow the arguments of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, or the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, but I would ask your Lordships to look at the matter from a slightly different point of view. The arrangement of "A" contract licences was entered into between firms and motor transport firms who hired vehicles because it was thought to be the most economical arrangement. Firms which required only to use one or two motor vans, or whatever it may be, saved overheads in this way, and saved themselves the trouble of making arrangements while their drivers were away on holiday. 837 These were the reasons why "A" contract licences were entered into and they are the reasons why some such arrangement as proposed in the Amendment is necessary.
It would be true to say that if the Government did not accept this Amendment and wanted to keep "A" contract licences on the same footing as "A" licences, firms which have their own vans to deliver their goods could switch over to "C" licences, and then they would have to undertake their own servicing and arrangements for motor drivers' holidays and so forth. All these small interferences with industry, in so many directions, put an increasing load and drag on it. I would ask noble Lords opposite if they can put their hands on their hearts and say they think that is consistent with the appeals, which are becoming more and more shrill, to everybody to produce as much as they can in the most economical way possible. This does not make much sense. In a company one would try to treat matters such as this solely from the standpoint of whether one could do the job more efficiently and waste less money. If any executive came along and sang to me an anthem on the theme of Clause 3 of this Bid, I should say: "That is as it may be; but would you mind putting down on a piece of paper some figures to show me why you think this arrangement is a better or cheaper one than the one we are now operating?" For these reasons I strongly support this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
I rise to support this Amendment, and I want to ask His Majesty's Government a question. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said last night that he would guarantee an efficient and economical service. The question I wish to ask is, if the Government refuse this Amendment, will they guarantee to the traders of this country the same service that they have had in the past? The traders know their job and their trade. No Government can really guarantee a satisfactory answer to my question in regard to contract "A" licences, because the job is a specialized job. The difference between His Majesty's Government and noble Lords on these Benches is that they are theoretical and we have been practical, many of us having worked in this industry. Further, will His Majesty's Government guarantee to contract "A" 838 licence holders that special bodies will be built? Thirdly, can the Government give us a single example of a trader who is in favour of giving up his "A" contract licence? Is there a single example in the history of this country? I had occasion last night to refer to the many speeches made by members of the Government up and clown the country asking us to do everything we can to get trade working. I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether he has a single instance of a trader or trade association who is in favour of giving up "A" contract licence.
Do His Majesty's Government really appreciate what the "A" contract licence holders do for the trading community of this country? Do the Government realize that these licence holders have put their warehouses at the disposal of the traders? If the Government refuse this Amendment, are they prepared to build at the public expense warehouses all over the country to do the same job? I cannot believe that if the Government really mean business they will refuse the granting of "A" contract licences at this moment. I hope the Government will agree to the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am inclined to agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that this is a convenient place for this. Amendment. I also agree that the actual form a the Amendment is not right. The correct form is undoubtedly that referring to page 48, line 32, which is to be moved later on. However that may be, I am sorry to say I cannot accept the Amendment. I think the reasons can be quite easily stated. We are considering in this clause the question of the acquisition of certain undertakings by the Commission, and the problem is, what undertakings we shall take over. Putting it quite crudely, we take over those undertakings which engage in long distance traffic, and you have to compare the quantum of that traffic with the total volume of traffic.
The effect of this suggestion is that it is to be provided that work done under contract "A" licence shall not be regarded as ordinary long distance carriage. I think that is quite illogical. The scheme, be it right or wrong, is to take over certain undertakings engaged in the work of 839 carriage of goods for hire and reward. There is a fundamental distinction between a contract "A" licence and a "C" licence; the contract "A" licence is conferred upon a man who is carrying on the business of carriage of goods. He is carrying on the business of carriage of goods for hire and reward, and that does not relate to the "C" licence at all. The "C" licence man is simply carrying his own goods; there is no question of a business of carriage of goods. Therefore, logically it seems to me that you cannot say that they are analogous. One is a man whose business is to carry goods for hire and reward, and the scheme of this Bill is to take over businesses which are predominantly engaged in that business, that business being long distance traffic.
I was surprised to hear some noble Lords suggest that the new Transport Corporation would not think it proper to indulge in a similar service. Of course they will. I cannot give any guarantees—I am much too old and wise to guarantee anything. I do not know what is going to happen. But this at least I will say: I see no reason whatsoever why this new Transport Commission should not give a service just as efficient and just as good as, and perhaps even better than, the service which has been given heretofore, and certainly they would be fully at liberty to do so. I cannot regard it as having an effect that in any way conflicts with their main business. After all, the railways in the past, to give an illustration analogous to that given about common carriers, have frequently run special trains. There are special trains when the big schools go back, for instance; and, though I never had one, I believe it was possible in the old days to get a special train for yourself alone, ii you paid an adequate fee. My noble friend sitting by my side, Lord Nathan, the Minister of Civil Aviation, has three Civil Aviation Corporations with ample power to indulge in the charter of services if they are so minded.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Certainly. All I say is that they have ample power, if they are so minded, to undertake the charter of services. I see no reason in principle at all why the Transport Commission should not be able to undertake the same class of 840 work, and that is our intention. It is perfectly true that anybody who is not satisfied with the service he gets can take out a "C" licence, and run his own transport. Perhaps it is good that that should be so, because it compels the new Transport Commission to see that their service is really efficient. I am bound to say I do not know a trader who desires it, but equally may I say I do not know a trader who does not; my personal knowledge, I must admit, is nil.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Well, you will have competition between the new service which we are going to render, and the right of a man, if he is dissatisfied with the new service, to start his own transport. I hope, and I believe, that the traders of this country will not be put off by a mere advertising campaign and slogans such as we see on hoardings all over the place, and will not assume that this new service is going to be completely inefficient. I do not believe it. I believe the traders will give it a fair trial, and see if it can give them as good service as or perhaps better service than they have been getting hitherto. If they find that the service which they are getting under the new arrangement is inefficient, or no good, then let them revert to the "C" licence and carry their own goods. There, I think you have some guarantee. I hope that there will be efficiency.
It seems to me that to adopt this Amendment would be completely illogical. To relate the "A" contract licence to the "C" licence is completely wrong. I think this is a case of a man carrying for hire and reward, and under the new Transport Commission we shall be perfectly prepared to undertake this work; and we shall endeavour to give at least as good a service as the traders of this country have hitherto been getting. I would ask your Lordships to see that the Transport Commission have at any rate a chance to make good in this—I agree it is an important task which confronts them—and therefore, in whatever form the Amendment be moved, and in whatever place it be moved, I regret that I cannot accept it.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
If I may correct the noble and learned Viscount, he said the "A" contract licence holder was carrying his own goods.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am afraid that the Government appear adamant on this point, but I would appeal to them if possible to take the matter back to the Minister and consider it further before the Report stage. We have had numbers of Divisions on this Bill, but we do not seek to divide, partly because the Divisions take up unnecessary time, and partly because it gives an impression of a difference of objective which is more apparent than real. I do not pretend at all that we like this Bill. If we had been in office we would not have introduced this Bill, but, having had the Bill passed through another place and sent here, our duty is to make it as efficient as possible. I suggest that an Amendment of this kind is not intended to wreck the purpose of the Bill, and I should think it a great pity if that impression were created.
In spite of what the Lord Chancellor has said in his argument, I think there is a good case for this Amendment. As I understood him—and I hope I shall be corrected if I have misinterpreted his remarks—he said there was a fundamental difference between contract "A" licences and "C" licences; the contract "A" licences are to carry on business for the carriage of goods for hire and reward, and the "C" licences, he said, were only for people who carry their own goods. I admit there is this difference about the hire and reward, but actually it will be the same goods that are carried—exactly the same goods.—because in practice the majority of these firms, or all who can, where they are unable under the rigid provisions of the Bill to get a contract "A" licence, will switch over and ask for a "C" licence. The only result from the Government's point of view, will be that these people will still be outside the provisions of the Bill. It will make no difference. There will be the maximum of inconvenience, the maximum of disturbance and the maximum of irritation, and they will get exactly the same result. I am sure that is not what the Government are out to do, and I am sure it is not what the Minister is out to do.
842 The Lord Chancellor, in his remarks just now, drew an analogy to civil aviation, and said there were ample powers under the Civil Aviation Act for the Corporation to do charter work. That is perfectly true, but there are also ample powers for other people to do charter work under exactly equal terms. That was put in, if I remember rightly, in this House, and was accepted by the Government; and that is what we ask for in this Bill. Therefore, I suggest to the Government that they should take this matter back and consider it further with the Minister. We must divide if they will not, but we do not want to divide; we would rather give a chance for a settlement on a basis agreeable to all parties concerned.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I find myself in full agreement with what has been said by the noble Marquess, and I would support his appeal that this matter should receive Further consideration. I should also like to put one additional point that has not yet been made. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said that it traders concerned found that they were not receiving the same adequacy of service from the Commission that they had received hitherto, under "A" contract licences, they could then obtain "C" licences and carry their own goods in their own way. But, for reasons given, that would frequently be very inconvenient, especially for the smaller firms. I would ask whether, under the Bill, as at present projected, it would be legal for smaller firms to form, so to speak, a co-operative society—that is to say a society in which a number of such firms could each make it its business to conduct this kind of service for the good of all. That would be of great advantage in the way of promoting efficiency, in that it would enable the needs of one firm to be worked in with the needs of another firm, thereby making the fullest possible use of the vehicles. That is a point which might perhaps be the subject of, further consideration, in addition to those points which have just been mentioned.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
As the Leader of the Opposition knows, I am, I think, a very reasonable person. I like to make concessions if I can, but I never like to make concessions or to hold out promises when I know that I cannot carry them out. I could not carry out this 843 promise asked. With regard to what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Long, all I ask in this matter is that this Commission should not stand condemned before they have had a chance. It seems to me that to force this Amendment, and to say that you are going to have existing people, and not the Transport Commission, doing this work, presupposes that the Transport Commission cannot do it efficiently. I do not think it is fair to start off like that. I think the Transport Commission ought to be given a chance to see if they can carry on this work well. With regard to the scheme of forming a cooperative organization, which was suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, I should not like to pronounce on that on the spur of the moment. Offhand—and this purely a first impression—it seems to me that it would not be legal. The essence of holding "C" licences is, that you are carrying your own goods. This scheme, which is suggested, would be a scheme whereby you would, in certain circumstances, be carrying goods belonging to other people.
All I can say now is that I will acquaint the Minister with the discussions which we have had, and let him know the views which the Committee have expressed. But I should not be honest with the Committee if I did not say that I have previously discussed this matter with the Minister, and the line that I am taking now is the line that accords with the Minister's wishes. Of course, every human being has the right to consider matters again. No doubt the Minister might look at this matter again. But I have told the Committee the Minister's view, and I have no ground whatever for saying that the Minister will alter or resile from the view which he has taken. As I have said, I am quite willing to see that these discussions which we have had are brought to the Minister's attention.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I would accept at once, as I believe all noble Lords on this side of the House would accept, the plea of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when he says: "Why will you not give the Commission a fair chance?" We will accept at once the proposition that the Commission should be given a fair chance. Let the Commission enter this business. But they do not require this power to force other people out of business in order that they 844 may enter it and compete. Let the Commission have absolute power to enter this business with all their capital behind them. If they can give better service to the trader than the ordinary man gives with his contract "A" licence, then let the best concern get the business. I would not for a moment complain of that. I think that it is a perfectly fair proposition.
As the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition has said, that is exactly what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House agreed should be done when the Civil Aviation Bill was being considered. We considered that charter flying work ought to be open to private firms. The Government first of all resisted that, and then they said: "No, that is fair, so long as we can enter the business." We said: "We accept that at once. You will compete on equal terms." It is not fair of the Lord Chancellor now to say to us, "You are queering the pitch of the Commission and not giving them a fair chance." My answer to him on that is that I wish to give them the fairest possible chance, and if in open competition, with all their resources behind them, they can beat the private contractor, then, of course, the man who has his goods to put on these transport services will put them on the Commission's services. If the Lord Chancellor insists on going further, then he is not asking for a fair chance for the Commission but for an absolute monopoly.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
May I say a word which is relevant to the suggestion of a co-operative scheme made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel? I think this also supports the arguments which have been advanced by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. It is within my knowledge that exactly that kind of arrangement has already been made. Certain firms who specialize in perishable goods, which have to be delivered two or three times a week to retailers, and by them to the consumers, are in precisely the position which the noble Viscount has mentioned. They have, in fact, found a legal way of doing what he suggests. I think that that supports the arguments put forward by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
May I briefly answer two points which have been made 845 by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor? I agree, and we all agree, that what we are deciding now is what undertakings are to be taken over on the ground of being long distance traffic. The point that has to be decided is what is "ordinary long distance traffic." The proposition of the Government is that the carriage of goods—drugs, laundry, or whatever it may be—for l00 miles is short distance if it goes in a "C" licensed vehicle, whereas if they are carried in an "A" contract licensed vehicle the question whether it is short or long distance depends on who owns the vehicle.
I suggest that the line taken in the Road and Rail Traffic Act, which said that the conditions that apply to "C" licences shall apply to "A" contract licences, was rational and logical, and that the line taken by the Government is irrational and illogical. The second thing I want to say is that if the noble and learned Viscount will recall clearly what I said he will realize that I did not attack the Commission or anticipate any difficulty in their doing their work. I
§ believe they will do their vital and essential work best if they do not have also to deal with a lot of fripperies taken over from a lot of other people. One of the objects of the Amendment is to secure that the Commission should not feel bound to go into this "A" contract licence business, but should leave it to others who have been doing it before, and concentrate on their new and enormously important task of giving us a really efficient service throughout the country.
THE CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES
The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, wishes to withdraw his original Amendment, and to move the Amendment in the form that has already been discussed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 48, line 29, after ("that") insert ("the carriage of goods in a vehicle authorized for use under a licence granted under subsection (1) Section 7 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act 1933").—(Lord Beveridge.)
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 18.847
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Falmouth, V.||Fairlie, L (E. Glasgow.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hailsham, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Long, V.||Greville, L.|
|Maugham, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Monsell, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Ridley, V.||Hatherton, L.|
|Beatty, E.||Samuel, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Craven, E.||Simon, V.||Hazelrigg, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Swinton, V.||Hothfield, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Wimborne, V. [Teller.]||Hylton, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Addington, L.||Llewellin, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose)||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Halifax, E.||Beveridge, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Howe, E.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Broughshane, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Butler of Mount Juliet, L.(E. Carrick.)||Rankeillour, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Rea, L.|
|Munster, E.||Carrington, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Perth, E.||Cawley, L.||Rushcliffe, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Cherwell, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Savile, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Clwyd, L.||Soulbury, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Denham, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Jowitt, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Ammon, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Calverley, L.||Marley, L.|
|Drogheda, E.||Chorley, L.||Morrison, L.|
|Darwen, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Addison, V.||Faringdon, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hall, V.||Henderson, L. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Holden, L.||Walkden, L. [Teller.]|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ LORD HAWKE moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), to leave out the first "ordinary" and insert "all." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. When I first read this clause I was rather entranced by the description, "ordinary furniture removals," and wondered what on earth would be an extraordinary furniture removal. Clause 123, the definition clause gives a definition of "ordinary" at some length, and I understand it to mean that, to all intents and purposes, the ordinary furniture removal is a private removal, and anything else is in the nature of a trade removal. By this Amendment we seek to avoid that those traders who specialize in the carriage of furniture from factory to wholesaler, and from wholesaler to retailer, should have their mileage reckoned for with a view to the acquisition of their concerns under this Bill. If our Amendment is accepted it would lessen the risk of take-over of ordinary furniture removers who happened to have engaged in rather a large proportion of trade removal during the crucial year of 1946, or who engaged in the carriage of "back loads" of goods other than furniture. When we come to Clause 52 we have another Amendment, and then we may seek to prove that it is to the public advantage that these men should be allowed to carry on, but at the moment we are only seeking to exclude them from the mathematics of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 32, leave out ("ordinary") and insert ("all").—(Lord Hawke.)
§ VISCOUNT LONG
In supporting the Amendment that has been moved by my noble friend Lord Hawke, I will give only one example of many to show why we desire this Amendment. As the Bill stands at the moment, if you are a business man and have your furniture stored 848 in a furniture shop, you can get your furniture removed; but if, in that shop and in the process, you buy another table, you cannot under the form in which the Bill now stands, get it removed. In supporting the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, all I ask is that this correction is made in the Bill, so that the position may be eased.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I may say so, I do not think this is a very good Amendment The Amendment would alter in this way the ordinary furniture remover who, as the noble Lord has pointed out, is defined in page 124 of the Bill, and defined in such a way as to make it plain that the exception does not extend to the carriage for hire or reward from a furniture manufacturer to a shop for sale. High Wycombe has, I think, a great industry for furniture. Why on earth should anybody, just because he carries that sort of furniture, be exempted from the Bill? On the other hand, furniture removals—as we all know because we have all suffered from them—involve a very great deal more than the mere carriage of furniture. The removers have to put down carpets and pack and unpack, and it is a specialized work. In our exceptions, what we have tried to do is either to have regard to the special nature of the vehicle, or to have regard to the special nature of the work to be done. With the greatest respect, there is no more difficulty in carrying a table or a chair than in any other form of carriage; therefore I am afraid I cannot possibly accept this Amendment.
The noble and learned Viscount has called attention to the special nature of the vehicle, and perhaps when we reach our Amendment to Clause 52, when we shall seek to prove the advantage to the community of allowing these people to continue their business, we may be able to bring that in. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.849
§ EARL DE LA WARR moved, in the proviso to subsection (2) after "meat" to insert "the carriage of milk." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment that stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, and myself. It will not be necessary for me to detain your Lordships very long on this Amendment, because it is so eminently reasonable, that I feel, with confidence, that the noble and learned Viscount, even in his present state of hard-heartedness, will find it impossible to reject it. The proviso we are now discussing deals with the release of the carriage of certain commodities from the effects of this Bill—liquids in bulk, furniture, meat and livestock—and to those I ask His Majesty's Government to add the carriage of milk. The reasons are quite simple.
§ The first —and I do not think we need to debate this point at great length—is that milk is a perishable commodity. I might venture to suggest that it is even more perishable than furniture in the hands of removers. Then this trade is already completely rationalized. We have never yet been able to ascertain what is the specific motive for the introduction of this Bill. We have understood it is to rationalize all transport including the road traffic we are now discussing, but this business is at present carried on and controlled by the Milk Marketing Board. Who are the Milk Marketing Board? They are a statutory body set up under a scheme approved by Parliament; their powers are defined by Parliament. The Minister has to give his approval to the appointment of at least two members of the Board; and the Minister of Agriculture, if there are any complaints as to the activities of this body, can set up a committee of investigation to report. You could not have a body acting more under statutory powers than do the Milk Marketing Board.
§ But that is not the whole story, because in the conduct of this particular part of their business, the Milk Marketing Board are actually controlled by the Ministry of Food; and so completely is this part of their business rationalized that they have also saved over 40,000 lorry miles per day. Not only is this extremely difficult and intricate trade completely rationalized, but it is subject to immense variations—not merely variations as between season and season, but between 850 week and week—and, in fact, between day and day. It is quite true that a great proportion of this business is already released from the Bill; quite a large proportion is carried out under "C" licences—we need not worry about that; quite a large proportion is already carried in bulk—we need not worry about that; another large proportion goes by rail, and another is controlled by "A" and "B" licence holders, who seldom desire to operate under the 25 mile limit.
§ There remains, however another considerable proportion. I must confess to your Lordships that I have been unable, in spite of inquiry in the appropriate quarters, to ascertain exactly what proportion it is; but I am given to understand, by those best qualified to know, that it can be fairly said to vary between 15 and 20 per cent. This proportion is used as a stabilizing influence in the milk supply of this country. I am not sure that it is quite fair to make the point that it is used very much as the milk before the war was used which was considered to be a normal surplus. It was sent to the creameries and the cheese-making factories, but it was always there, available to be brought into the liquid milk trade the moment it was needed. Your Lordships may ask: What are the causes of these variations? One can think of a number of causes. A sudden heat wave might mean that the milk in a certain area "goes off," and a quick diversion has to be made. Last winter the whole structure of distribution was disorganized by the storms. There is a fairly regular variation caused now by school milk; at the week-ends that milk is not needed for that purpose, and it has to be disposed of elsewhere.
§ There was perhaps the rather exceptional case the other day of the Co-operative strike, when at a few hours' notice some thousands of gallons of milk had to be diverted from Essex to Norfolk. There are holiday rushes, and even the week-end rush. For instance, the population of seaside towns varies enormously according to what the weather report is on Friday; as a result of that people either flock to the seaside, or decide that, on the whole, it is not worth going. I am not at all sure that I have given your Lordships a complete list; I think one has to be in a business of this 851 character to understand all the details of the variations. But I can say that so great and intricate are they—so much a matter not only of day-to-day, as I have said, but hour-to-hour variations—that it has been found necessary for the Ministry of Food Milk Movements Branch, who give directions about the disposal of this milk, to situate themselves in the very offices of the Milk Marketing Board down at Thames Ditton. They are themselves frequently not in a position to give directions as to the disposal of some of these quantities of milk until eleven o'clock on the day on which it has to be dispatched. How on earth can we hope to deal with this matter if we are going to stick yet another wheel on the coach? Here we have a business directed by the Milk Marketing Board, under the orders of the Ministry of Food. Why do we want a further body to give vet further instructions, and issue yet further permits?
Supposing that at eleven o'clock in the morning, particularly during the hot weather, news comes through of a shortage in a certain district, and milk which for the most part of the year goes only twenty-four miles (and, therefore, does not come under the Bill) has to go twenty-six miles. The distributor will receive a direction from the Ministry of Food to divert that milk, and that distributor, before he can carry out that instruction of the Ministry of Food, will have to go to the Transport Commission in order to get a permit. It may be said that in fact the permits will be granted so automatically, and will be obtained so easily, that it will not really interfere with the trade. Then why bother about the permits, if that is to be the position? The actual logic of the position is that the distributor may find himself in the position of having to break the law—of merely being offered the choice of whether to disobey the Ministry of Food or the Transport Commission. I think most of us are in favour of, and all of us are reconciled to a certain degree of planning in our affairs to-day, but when it becomes a matter of giving planners power to plan and control other planners, then, indeed, we have reached a state of chaos. I venture to say that we shall reach that state of chaos under this Bill unless the noble and learned Viscount is prepared to make a very reasonable concession such as this. I beg to move.852
Page 48, line 32, after ("meat") insert ("the carriage of milk").—(The Earl De La Warr.)
I would like briefly to support my noble friend who moved this Amendment. Surely, milk is just as perishable as meat, which is already excluded and set down in the clause. Also, the idea of rationalizing all forms of transport is surely to obtain co-ordination between the different forms. This cannot possibly apply to milk, because the milk must be collected from the farms by road. In addition, as has been pointed out by the noble Earl, a complete and fully organized road service for milk has been built up over recent years, in conjunction with the Milk Marketing Board, the Ministry of Food, and the Ministry of Agriculture. I think it is highly unlikely that any further degree of rationalization of milk transport could be achieved under this Bill. But what is much more important is the fact that, unless this Amendment is accepted, this excellent road service for milk will be thrown out of gear. I think the Government would be very well advised to accept this Amendment.
I should like to say a few words with regard to this Amendment. The case as put by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, is, I think, a very complete one. He has dealt with many points that have been brought to my notice in considering this matter. In this case there is no question of it not being a perishable food. A certain number of the arguments which the noble Earl put forward apply to one or two other products which we suggest should be exempted from this Bill. But with regard to this question of milk, it is one which affects a very large industry. I venture to suggest that anything which would interfere with the normal course of a business already so highly organized can do nothing but harm, not merely to the industry, but also to the whole of the consumers—which means the whole of the population of this country. Under those circumstances, I suggest that this is an item, of all others, unique in its character and the distribution of which is so highly integrated and organized that it would be a profound mistake to allow the possibility of interference or the necessity of 853 going to another authority in order to secure that its adequate distribution should be ensured.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
I desire only to add a word or two on this subject, because I confess that when I first heard of the point I was exceedingly ignorant of the law relating to milk. In my young days, of course, there was no such law. But I have spent about a couple of hours trying to ascertain what is the position with regard to the Milk Marketing Board and their powers. Although I am by no means fully briefed on that matter—and I hope the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, will not ask me any questions in the nature cf an examination—there are some things I have discovered which will be a surprise to a good many of your Lordships, as they were to me. The Milk Marketing Board, in fact, control all the transport arrangements from the farm to the dairy or the depot. They make contracts for every individual milk haulier, and they have to approve the arrangements for hauling milk from every farm throughout the country which sells milk. They have rationalized deliveries, and it is found by most people that the adjustments necessary in order to provide a flexible service—and "flexible" is a very important word in this connexion—for this. very perishable product have been made.
The Milk Marketing Board have statutory authority under several Acts of Parliament and under some half-dozen statutory orders and are already in control of milk transport. I think, therefore, the Government have to consider what would be the result of taking over a good many of the vehicles with which they carry on their business. I would add, in passing, that if they really intend to take over the transport of milk, so far as it is within this clause, it seems to me obvious that something more should be added to the Bill in order to prevent serious confusion. The confusion will arise between people who have a statutory authority to deal with the transport of milk, and the people who will acquire not the undertakings of those who have been running the affair, but the vehicles which, for some reason or other, they think it desirable—or the draftsman thought it desirable—to have transferred to the Transport Board.
I can conceive some serious quarrels, which will be exceedingly difficult to dis 854 pose of, between the various authorities which will be concerned. I conceive that the Food and Drugs Act will have to be modified as a result of this. I observe, also, that there is no repeal in this Bill of the various authorities given to the organizations I have mentioned, and a complete confusion will result from leaving the Bill as it stands at the present time. I would add this. The carriage of milk is a tricky business, and I cannot think that the Government are wise to undertake it. Cleanliness is, as we all know, of vital importance. We have discussed problems of milk in this House half a dozen times since I have been here, and all sorts of regulations may be necessary for the cans—or whatever you call them—in which milk is taken from the farms to various centres—regulations as to their size, and as to the way in which they shall be cleaned afterwards. All those matters have to be dealt with by those in charge of the milk transport business. I must say that I think the Government will be showing courage, although something the opposite of wisdom, if they insist upon the clause as it stands and do not accept the present Amendment.
I would like to support this Amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it. It seems to me that the reason why certain classes are put in the clause is that they are either specialized vehicles to carry particular goods, or because they perform a specialized service. I think that in the case of milk, as has been shown by the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, and others there is clearly a highly specialized method of handling. It would seem difficult, for various reasons, to work. it into an integrated system of transport. There is the flexibility required, the very accurate knowledge of local circumstances, and the method of operating which calls for the return of the empties in which the milk is brought, and which requires just as much organization as the carrying of the milk itself. I know, from the point of view of the milk producer, the extreme importance of having the milk collected at the time arranged, and what very great upset and difficulty there would be if this did not happen. It would seem to be a risky proceeding to upset an arrangement which is already so highly organized. 855 I would like to add one word upon a subject which has not been mentioned, but which I think is of some importance. I notice that many of the Amendments which have been proposed to Clause 39—the carriage of milk and perishable foodstuffs and farm produce—relate to farm produce or materials and goods of value and importance to the country, as opposed to the town. I think that perhaps this Bill is framed mainly with regard to the conditions in the town, or conditions where people are gathered in large numbers. I feel it is inevitably so, because a Bill such as this must be framed for the majority. I beg the Government to consider a little, as they go through the Bill, how the needs of the countryside differ from the needs of the towns, and how important it is that agriculture and other rural industries should be given a transport service which they must have and which they need to develop. I hope very much that they will accept this Amendment.
§ LORD HARLECH
There is one other point I should like to make in this connexion. There is a growing demand by certain public health authorities, and particularly by the hospitals, for the highest grade of tuberculin tested milk, and it is not always easy to obtain it locally. As one knows, there is not electric cooling in some places; in the summer months one has to switch from one area or one group of farms, or maybe individual farms, to others. There is nothing more complicated than the Milk Marketing Board's admirable arrangements for keeping the hospitals and the selected users supplied with an absolutely guaranteed supply of tuberculin tested milk. It means watching the containers to see that there is nothing used for any other kind of milk—in spite of all the other precautions about scouring and so on. I dread the introduction of another department in another Ministry, and another authority in Whitehall, dealing with the day-to-day operation of what I regard as one of the most important developments in public health, and in agriculture itself—namely the improvement and extended supply of tuberculin-tested milk in this country. It is a case of making specific contracts with specific inspected firms, and often of taking the milk great distances to supply to particular institutions, 856 particularly anywhere where there are tuberculous patients. Therefore I implore the Minister, and those who represent the Ministry in this House, to consider leaving the Milk Marketing Board, with their admirable liaison arrangements with the Ministry of Food, to make their own arrangements, which are now so admirable, for the distribution of this vital commodity.
§ EARL HOWE
What can have happened to all the skilled controversialists belonging to the Socialist Party in this House? Are they not interested in one of the most important phases of this Bill—namely, the question of the carriage of milk? One would have thought that the carriage of milk is something in which they would have been interested, but during most of the discussion there has been nobody on the back Benches opposite, though we are now fortified by at any rate one adherent. Is it that the members of the Socialist Party in your Lordships' House do not know anything about this subject, or do not want to know anything about it? It seems to me a most extraordinary thing that the discussion of this Bill has been concentrated all the time entirely on the Front Bench opposite. I should have thought that the carriage of milk was the sort of matter in which anybody, for instance, connected with a hospital, might take a certain amount of interest, and therefore might have something to say on this Amendment. I do urge the Government to give consideration to this Amendment. I know something of the vehicles that are employed in the carrying industry and how important they are. I should not imagine that they could be very easily employed for any other service. Therefore, I hope the Government will give further consideration to this Amendment, and also that we shall be fortified by one or two expressions of opinion from the back Benches opposite.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We have had an interesting discussion, and a series of brilliant speeches have been made. But none of them seems to have been made on the right clause; they ought all to have been delivered on Clause 52. Let us hope that when we reach Clause 52 they will not be delivered again. The speech we have just heard would have been equally appropriate on Clause 39 or Clause 52—or on any other clause. I entirely agree with the great importance of the carriage 857 of milk. That is obvious. I agree entirely with the statements made about the excellent work of the Milk Marketing Board. Let us remember, however, that the Milk Marketing Board do not themselves carry milk: they contract with hauliers to carry the milk for them. In that respect they are quite different from the Meat Pool, which actually controls and directs the operation of the vehicles in which meat is carried. The Milk Marketing Board merely make arrangements with hauliers for the carriage of milk.
Underlying so many of the remarks which noble Lords have made—that milk is an important commodity which should be carried and lifted promptly, that punctuality should be observed, that resourcefulness should be shown in getting milk to a place where there is a need for milk, that the hospitals should be carefully looked after, and so on—is the assumption that the Transport Commission cannot do it: that the ordinary haulier can, and the Commission cannot. That is fundamental. If you believe that, I quite understand that you support this or any of the other Amendments. But if you take the view we take, at least give this Commission a chance, and see whether they will not do this work as efficiently as the vast number of hauliers who are doing it to-day under contract. Give the Commission a chance and see if they can do it. With regard to the carriage of milk itself: first of all, milk is sometimes carried in those tank vehicles—I do not know the correct name for them. Those are excluded altogether from the Bill. There have to be special arrangements for cleaning these vehicles and so on, and we are not concerned with that particular kind of carriage of milk.
Then, of course, a great deal is carried by rail; it is generally a short haul to the railway. That again is not interfered with, so far as its road carriage is concerned, if it is a short haul. But there is some long haulage done. This particular clause we are discussing is not a clause which is limiting or controlling what the haulier who is not taken over may do. It is a clause deciding which undertakings shall be taken over, and you have to compare the total volume of work which they do with the volume of traffic which is long distance; and placing one over the other you have to come to a conclusion 858 as to whether long distance predominates. That is what we are doing here. The exceptions we have endeavoured to put here are exceptions which either relate to the nature of the work which has to be done—an illustration is that of the furniture remover, who has to do much more than merely carry the furniture—or else the nature of the vehicle, as for instance the tank vehicle which is used for milk.
I agree there is an exception, to which the noble Lord, Lord Teynham referred; and that is meat. He may say, and did so with great force, "Why have you excepted meat? Is not milk just as perishable as meat?" The reason we have excepted meat is this: About 80 per cent. of the meat is short distance haul, and therefore would not he affected by the Bill at all; and of the balance, the long distance haul, the great majority is in these special refrigerated vans. We thought the simple thing was to take meat out of the waggon. So far as milk is con-, corned, we are not dealing with specially contracted vans. We all see these lorries going along, picking up milk churns left on those stands outside farms all over the country—just an ordinary lorry, which can be used for any other purpose, and for which no particular skill is required; there is nothing to be done to the milk by the lorry driver except deliver it. He has to be punctual and to drive the lorry properly, and be clean and sober and so on—but that applies to all sorts of driving and there is really no principle in excepting milk from the Bill at all, unless you assume that this Transport Commission will be no good, that they will not be punctual, that they will not be able to carry out their duties, and so on and so forth.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
I wonder if the noble and learned Viscount really appreciates. that in many instances the drivers of these particular lorries are farmers or ex-farmers, and they suit. the time of picking up this milk to the requirements of the. farmer. Therefore they are, in principle, specialists at their job.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Various fixed times; the times differ, I suppose. 859 But it is quite idle to suggest that these lorry drivers have to do anything apart from carrying the milk. They have to collect the milk at a specific time. No doubt it varies in different circumstances and in different counties, and so on and so forth. However, that is what they have to do, and you are dealing with a vehicle which is in no sense a specialized vehicle. You are dealing with a driver who is not specialized in connexion with the goods, but I entirely agree it is of the utmost importance that he should be prompt and punctual, and all the rest of it. Believing, as I do, that this Commission will be able to do this work perfectly efficiently, I say that there is no reason whatever to except the carriage of milk from the principle of Clause 39—in other words, that it should enter into the criterion as to whether you do or do not take over a firm. That is the view that is taken, and I ask your Lordships to say that in confining our exceptions to the sort of things I have been discussing—namely, specialist tasks or specialist vehicles—you are on the only logical ground, and once you depart from that you are at large. Therefore, I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I think the sympathy of the House must be beginning to go out to the Lord Chancellor. We were told by him, if I remember rightly, in the speech on the debate on the Address, that the right time to criticize this measure was when it came here, and throughout the two days of the Second Reading of the Bill we were encouraged by Government spokesmen to do all we could to make the Bill a better Bill in its performance. That is what we are trying to do, and it must be extremely distasteful to the Lord Chancellor to have to say that, however reasonable the proposals are, this provision is in the Bill and we must accept it. This is a totalitarian registration machine—that is really what it is coming to. I thought my noble friend, Earl Howe, was a little unkind to noble Lords on the Back Benches, which are now becoming more sparsely populated. After all, he must remember that they also serve who only sit and vote.
The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor has given rather a piece of special pleading, in reply to this discussion. I am not criticizing him for that, because I do not know any defence to this Amendment that would not be special 860 pleading. It is extremely difficult to find one. He said that what we have to consider is whether the carrying of milk comes within long distance hauling, and if it does it must be taken over. I thought the object of this Bill—and last night he read out to us those admirable words in Clause 3, which set out the object of the Bill—was to set up an efficient transport system. I thought that was what we were after, and not a mathematical calculation as to whether there were more or fewer of these churn-carrying vehicles running over or under a certain distance. Surely, what we are after in this Bill, is to see if we can get a better service. Otherwise it is strange that Parliament should be called upon to deal with clause after clause of it. The Lord Chancellor also said that he made a distinction in the case of meat, where an entirely different principle was applied, and that there was only a small amount in question. I believe a very large amount is not in question here, and I am so advised by the Milk Marketing Board. Therefore, the same arguments really apply to this as apply to meat.
But—and I am coming back to this—the real argument is not whether this is large or small, but that even if a relatively small number of vehicles are taken over or prohibited from running, it does mean recasting the whole of this complex system. You must remember that. Of that there can be no doubt. I must deal with the other special defence. The noble and learned Viscount said: "You ought really not to be discussing who should operate this. That ought to come in Clause 52. What you can discuss under Section 39 is, who shall be bought out or prohibited from operating." We really disposed of that question last night. You, cannot separate these things. If you are going to put these people out of business and confiscate their undertakings under Clause 39, there is no good in telling us that when we come to Clause 52 we can discuss whether they can operate or not. Of course you cannot operate if you have already been put out of business, and the Lord Chancellor would be the first to call us to order and tell us that we should not do so.
Having discussed the merits of these things in Clause 39, I suggest that that clause and Clause 52 must hang together. We cannot repeat the arguments over again. But do not let us be deflected 861 from discussing the merits of the case by a piece of special pleading—I say that without offence. What are the real merits? I thought that this was a case which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor would be prepared to consider. It is not a case like the last one, where Government Departments are not already involved. What has happened in this instance? Here is a case where the whole of the organization of the supply of milk from cow to consumer is already completely co-ordinated and controlled by a whole series of Government Departments acting together—the Ministry of Food and the Milk Marketing Board, and I suppose the Ministry of Transport come in. They have devised a most admirable system controlling every churn, and that system is based on long experience. It is admitted that it gives admirable service, and especially in cases such as the one which Lord Harlech. stated—the difficulty of suddenly switching from one area to another to get anti-tuberculin milk to hospital, and of dealing with a hundred arid one emergencies.
After all, these people sitting in Whitehall should know a little more about the country, the cows, the weather, and all the other things which really do not conform to a sealed pattern. The fellow sitting on a seat in Whitehall thinks that he has to write something out on paper. Lord Ammon gave an illustration of that on one occasion. What was written looked all right, but the scheme did not do any of the things it was required to do when it came to practice. I am not at all sure, therefore, that the people responsible for this Bill had not better go to the Wye Agricultual College and have a course in cows. They would then produce something better. They could come back after a proper period of gestation and produce a better Bill. But milk distribution is completely controlled from start to finish. It gives satisfaction to everyone. It is indeed the only thing in the whole piece of public administration, so far as I can make out, which is praised by everyone. It is praised by the producer, by the consumer, by the distributor. All agree that it is an admirable piece of co-ordination and an admirable example of planning. The Lord Chancellor has said that it works perfectly. Then why disrupt it? Surely this Commission will have enough to do, in all conscience, without barging into this.
862 And observe that it will all be disturbed. It is no good saying that the Commission will put out of business, or take over, or prohibit from carrying on, only 20 per cent., 25 per cent. or 3o per cent—I do not know what the percentage is—of the people engaged in this. As I say, I do not know what the percentage is, but I do know that when you have a frightfully complex and coordinated structure like this distribution of milk scheme, operating all over the country, if you put. say 20 per cent. of the people in it out of business, then you have not merely to re-organize that 20 per cent. but to re-cast the whole machine. All the parts lit in like a cantilever. Every fraction of this complicated machine fits into the other parts; all the cogs mesh smoothly. Therefore as I say, it is not 20 per cent. of those engaged in it that you are going to throw into the melting pot, it is the whole 100 per cent. And for what purpose? This system is giving excellent service to-day. I suggest that this is what may be called "the new competition." The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, keeps on saying: "Why cannot you give the Commission a chance." We are giving them a hundred chances; we are not stopping them.
Observe the bearing of the structure of this Bill. I ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, as the legal authority in charge, to correct me if I am wrong. If this Amendment is carried, it will not prevent the Commission carrying milk if they want to, and if the Milk Marketing Board and other Departments want them to. They can come in in a supplementary capacity. They have power to engage in various traffics—they are, for instance, to engage in furniture removal. The Commission can do this. What we object to is that, when the whole system is working admirably in a co-ordinated scheme, the Government should not only say that the Commission shall come in but that people who know how to do the job, and are doing it so well, shall go out. That is not the way to give service. This is the new competition—not competition in services but competition between the Commission and other undertakings who are discharging these duties; it is a new competition among Government Departments as to how they can prohibit and obstruct. Is it too late to ask the noble and learned 863 Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, to take this back for further consideration? Here is a scheme which is already giving complete satisfaction. Surely, it is not too much to ask him to take this back and to ask the Minister to reconsider it in order
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 4.47 P.m.
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in the proviso to subsection (2) after "meat" to insert "the carriage of perishable foodstuffs." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is another attempt to improve this Bill and seeks to exclude perishable foodstuffs—flowers, green vegetables and soft fruits transported from grower to market. This is undoubtedly a specialist job, requiring an intimate knowledge of the trade and its practices. It may be argued: "Why should green vegetables and soft fruit be included with flower production?" The reason is they are grown in the same district by the same people, 864 to prevent upsetting the whole thing. If this is not to be done then we must divide upon this question.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 17.863
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Falmouth, V.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hailsham, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Lambert, V.||Greville, L.|
|Long, V.||Hacking, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Maugham, V.||Hampton, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Monsell, V.||Harlech, L.|
|Beatty, E.||Ridley, V.||Hatherton, L. [Teller.]|
|Carlisle, E.||Simon, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Craven, E.||Swinton, V.||Hazlerigg, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Templewood, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (Buccleuch and Queensberry ).||Hylton, L.|
|Addington, L.||Kenilworth, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Llewellin, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Howe, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Luke, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Broadbridge, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Manvers, E.||Broughshane, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Butler of Mount Juliet, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Onslow, E.||(E. Carrick.)||Rankeillour, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Carrington, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Radnor, E.||Cherwell, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Rothes, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Savile, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Stanhope, E.||Courthope, L.||Sinha, L.|
|De L' Isle and Dudley, L.||Soulbury, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Denham, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Chaplin, V.||Fairfax if Cameron, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Jowitt, V. (Lord Chancellor.)||Chorley, L. [Teller.]||Morrison, L. [Teller.]|
|Addison, V.||Darwen, L.||Nathan, L.|
|Hall, V.||Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Piercy, L.|
|Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Holden, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Calverley, L.||Marley, L.||Walkden, L.|
§ and employ the same transport. Special vehicles, insulated against frost, are provided in the early months of the year for the transport of tulips and daffodils, and also for lettuces, and on the easing off of flowers, traffic is afforded by the heavy production and transport of soft fruits.
§ It cannot be too strongly argued that the time factor is a major item which must be taken into account with this form of transport; any delay may easily lead to total loss of a consignment. For instance, flowers and green vegetables must be picked at the latest possible moment in the afternoon or evening on the day prior to that on which they are due to be sold on the market. Late delivery would cause a sharp depreciation in their value and—what is also important—the public would 865 be receiving their vegetables in a poor condition. It is essential that the drivers of vehicles should be well acquainted with the collecting areas. There are many off-lying fields and allotments from which smaller consignments are collected. The noble and learned Viscount, who is not now in his place, may again argue that the Commission will give equivalent and efficient service, but let us see what happened during the period in which the Government had control of the transport services. Innumerable delays and losses were caused because they called upon drivers who did not know the districts or the growers. It may be argued that all drivers would be taken over by the Commission, but this is by no means certain. The Commission cannot buy bodies until we become a slave State, and we have not reached that position yet. It would be difficult under centralized control for any particular driver always to carry out the same job. The producers of perishable goods are gravely perturbed at the prospect of losing the service of transport at present handling their goods so efficiently.
I would like to support the Amendment proposed. This is a very special trade. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said on the last Amendment that the milk collector need not be a specialist, but in the case of fresh foodstuffs it has been found that the most practicable way of dealing with the trade is for it to be in the hands of those who understand how these products should be handled. They require very special handling, if they are to arrive at their destination in the fresh condition in which they should be. My noble friend Lord Teynham has largely dealt with the question of the importance of time with regard to this trade. It is of the utmost importance there should be as little delay as possible in the transit of these products from the places where they are grown to the retailer, and so to the consumer.
Another element enters into this in that it is impossible to make any firm contracts with regard to the amount of any of these commodities that may be required. The availability of these products is controlled by the weather and so forth, and that is an element which enters largely into the question of whether these products are consumed in a really fresh 866 condition. Another element that enters into it is that, owing to the requirements of the markets, and the fact that in some places there may be gluts, it should be possible to divert the produce in question from one market to another. I suggest that to have to obtain the necessary permits—and all that that implies—from the Commission is not likely to result in a speedy adaptation to the requirements of the moment and to the real necessities of the case. I greatly hope that. His Majesty's Government will give serious consideration to this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
I rise to support this Amendment, and I regret that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is not present at this moment, because last night, in answer to me, he said that:On the contrary, they will be delivered promptly and efficiently to the moment, in the vans of the Commission.I want noble Lords to consider the position as it affects perishable goods. The noble and learned Viscount has made a tremendous play to-day with the words "Give the Commission a chance." But there is nothing new in that. Many of us were controlled in 1943 and we gave the Ministry of Transport every chance. What was the result? I will give one example—out of hundreds—of what happened.
I am engaged in transport. and I am talking from personal experience. I do not have to rely upon the "Box," or upon a civil servant to give me an answer. The example I give is that of two lorries which arrived at a certain station in the Midlands to collect perishable goods in the form of potatoes. One lorry was decontrolled and one was controlled. The decontrolled lorry had one man, the controlled lorry had two. The decontrolled lorry driver loaded up his lorry and was away. When he came back the controlled lorry was still at the station and the men had not even finished loading. The decontrolled lorry driver turned round and said: "You fellows are being a bit slow," but the other men replied, "Oh no, we are being paid the same price as you; why don't you work at the same speed?" That is one of hundreds of cases that happened under control, and that is what will happen if the Commission have control of perishable goods. His Majesty's Government may try to refute that, but it happens to 867 be a fact. Yet the Lord Chancellor said to your Lordships: "Give the Commission a chance." There is nothing new in that; we gave them a chance in 1943, and they failed.
There is one other feature to which I would like to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government. Have they considered the question of claims? I venture to suggest to His Majesty's Government that under the present system of the collection of perishable goods, there have been no claims at all. This is because there is complete co-ordination between the growers, the producers, the drivers, and the owners of the lorries. There have been few, if any, claims, and that is because most of the lorry drivers are agriculturists who know what they are doing. Do His Majesty's Government assume that the Commission will be able to take over these drivers? They have been brought up on the same ground as the growers, and in the same environment, and I suggest that the Commission will not be able to run their lorries with as few claims as is done at the present time. I hope His Majesty's Government will not interfere with something which has been running so successfully and so smoothly in this country, and which has produced, in all times, the produce we so badly need. It requires careful consideration. Fruit follows vegetables in sequence of months, and I can imagine—and so can His Majesty's Government—the complete chaos that will result if the Commission try to run these particular lorries, with perishable goods, to the various towns. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted by His Majesty's Government.
§ EARL HOWE
There is one question I want to ask. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said, on the last Amendment, that it was the essence of things that the service should be prompt, punctual, and to the point. Supposing the farmer or the trader concerned finds that the lorry is not punctual, is not prompt, and so on, what redress is he likely to have from a gigantic Government Department? Can the noble Lord tell us what sort of machinery will be set up in order that the people affected may present their worries and their complaints, if any? It would allay a certain amount of anxiety among many people who, like the noble Viscount, Lord Long, 868 have great experience of dealing with Government Departments. It would help a great many people to decide upon this Bill if the noble Lord could say whether the machinery for settling complaints and that sort of thing will be as prompt and as punctual as the noble Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, requires drivers to be for the purposes of their duties.
§ LORD WOLVERTON
I also would like to support this Amendment because it is one of great importance. I am not in the industry myself, but I live in the eastern counties and I know the importance of getting things to the market. There are an enormous number of vegetable growers, and the lorry businesses, which have been built up from small beginnings, give personal and prompt attention. If it is a very wet morning the growers can cancel a lorry at short notice, and order it again within two or three hours when perhaps the produce can be picked. This is of profound importance, and if, under the Bill as now drafted, the growers have to fill up forms and order a lorry three days in advance it will be impossible to do this. That is why I support the Amendment; it is vital to get these products up to the London or Birmingham markets at the earliest possible time with the least possible interference.
§ THE EARL OF CARRICK
I, too, would like to support this Amendment. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, asked what redress the market gardener or the producer would have if the lorry happened to be late. Obviously, he will have no redress. I happen to have a market garden, and I have to rely on individual trucking companies to take my stuff to the market. If I find that a man is late and does not fulfil his contract, I have a redress because I can employ somebody else. If this Bill is left in its present form I have no redress whatsoever. All that it means is that my stuff is going to lie about and not get to market in time. Personally, I think this is a very serious point, and I therefore support this Amendment.
§ LORD NATHAN
Some comment has been made on the fact that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, is not present, but I am sure that none of your Lordships would wish to complain of that fact, because obviously in a debate of this kind, occupying such a length of 869 time, those who are taking part in the debate must from time to time seek the necessary refreshment.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
I was not complaining. I merely desired to make some observations to the noble and learned Viscount.
§ LORD NATHAN
Of course, the Government are well aware of the importance of getting the goods to their destination speedily, and nothing that has been said in the course of this discussion gives me reason to think that the promptitude under this scheme will be less than that enjoyed at present. After all, these undertakings, so far as they are taken over by the Government, will, for the most part, be accompanied in their transfer by those who are to-day actually carrying on the business, whether they are those in the offices, those making the arrangements, or those actually driving the lorries. I would point out that, when all is said and done, so far as the vehicles covered by "C" licences and carrying perishables are concerned, they are not transferable to the Commission. That must account for a very large percentage of these vehicles. This only applies to those which are running long distance, for reward or hire. For generations it has been the practice for perishables to he carried by long distance transport on the railways, and in the course of this discussion I have not heard any complaint made on that score.
It would have been logical, if the argument that has been advanced is really sustainable, for noble Lords to have sought to exclude perishables from transport by railways under Part I of this Bill. The whole scheme here is that the exclusions, as set out in the proviso, sub-paragraph (ii) of Clause 39, are by reference either to particular classes of vehicle, or particular classes of skill, but in no instance by reference to the quality or nature of the goods themselves. There is no greater reason for excluding perishables as goods from the operation of this Bill than there is for excluding any other class of goods regarded as goods independently of the vehicle or the skill applicable to them. I know of no reason to apprehend that the Transport Commission—which will be as alert as noble Lords to realize the importance of getting these goods to market at the earliest possible moment—will not exert themselves to see that the goods are 870 brought to their destination with the same speed and under conditions equally satisfactory to the producer as prevail at present in relation to private vehicles. In the circumstances, I am unable to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD NATHAN
On my understanding of the position, the rights of the producer, in the event of any breach of obligation on the part of the carrier, will be precisely the same as they are at the present moment. I have not considered whether the Crown Proceedings Bill applies, but if it does apply, then that, too, will help the producer in a matter of this kind.
§ EARL HOWE
Is that really a correct answer? The noble Lord has said that it will be precisely the same as at present. At present, if you are dissatisfied with the fellow who carries your stuff to market you can employ somebody else, but when the Transport Commission takes over you will not be able to do that. Therefore, it will become of first importance that the machinery for settling complaints should be really efficient. One does not want to start an action under the Crown Proceedings Bill. The ordinary small trader would not want to do anything like that, but he would want to be sure that any complaints he might have were properly and efficiently dealt with. Could the noble Lord give us a little further information on that?
§ LORD NATHAN
The noble Earl may rest assured that the Commission will conduct itself in such a way as to ensure that its business will be carried on in accordance with the most modern and up to date commercial and businesslike principles.
I cannot think that the noble Lord's reply really meets my noble friend's point. The noble Lord has said that this business will be conducted on up to date business lines. But in the event of that not being so, what does the individual small trader do? That is the point my noble friend was making, and that is what noble Lords on these Benches would like to know.
§ LORD NATHAN
His position will be precisely the same as his position would be were there no such Bill as this.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
With great respect, that cannot be a correct answer. His position at present is that if he is not satisfied with the service he is getting from the person who undertakes to serve him, he can get rid of that person and employ somebody else. It is no good saying that that will be the position when the Bill is carried. When the Bill is carried, there will be one body, and only one body, that can serve him. The noble Lord may be quite confident that the service will always be excellent, but the question asked is: What is the small trader to do if the service is not excellent? With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, it cannot be correct to say that his position will be exactly the same as it is now. It will be entirely different, because he has no possible alternative but to put up with what he gets.
§ LORD NATHAN
I was, of course, directing myself to what will be his legal rights. As I apprehend, his legal rights will be precisely the same as they were before.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
His legal rights at present are to give notice to the person he is employing that he will not employ him any longer; and he then has a legal right to enter into an agreement with somebody else. With great respect, can it be correct to say that that is exactly the same as the position will be when there is nobody else he can employ?
§ LORD NATHAN
I do not think there is really any difference between the noble Viscount and myself. What I have said is that, in so far as his right of taking legal action is concerned for any breach of contract on the part of the contractor, it remains unaffected by this Bill. The point put to me by the noble Viscount, apart from legal rights, is: What are the opportunities open to him? I think the answer to that must plainly be, on the one hand, to bring pressure to hear on the Commission, and to invite his Member of Parliament to put a question in Parliament—a very effective remedy and a prompt one—or on the other hand to embark, if he be so minded, on the purchase of vehicles with a view to obtaining a "C" licence.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
I think the reply of the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench has been so unsatis 872 factory that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, will press this to a Division. I personally see no difference whatsoever between these perishable foodstuffs and milk. After all, we on these Benches know that the service rendered by a Government organization cannot be as delicate, as elastic and as full of the necessary good will as a service which is rendered in present circumstances by various private firms. The Post Office delivers its mails punctually—or certainly as punctually as it can—at certain fixed times, but if you ask the Post Office mail van to pick up a box of daffodils at 3 o'clock in the morning at a small farm in Lincolnshire, you will have the greatest difficulty in getting it to do so, and that will be the case in this organization. You will not get that delicate good will which is so essential when you are dealing with perishable commodities like flowers, and it will re-act through the whole industry of the country. It is not only the producer who will suffer, but the man who makes his living out of marketing the flowers, and it will affect the woman whose life is brightened by the bunch of fresh flowers she gets every week. They are going to he dead by the time they arrive—there is no doubt about that. I feel very strongly that these perishable commodities should be excluded from the provisions of this Bill. I see no difference whatsoever between this Amendment and the last one, and I hope the noble Lord will press it to a Division.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I would like to make an appeal to the Government to take some second thoughts on this Amendment, and see whether they cannot meet the point between now and the Report stage. I was not at all convinced by what the noble Lord said in answering for the Government. It is no good saying that these small people who grow vegetables have as their remedy the alternative of buying a lorry and getting a "C" licence, because they will not have enough capital to do that. Nor is it a prudent thing to urge them to do it, because they will be embarking too much of their capital on buying a lorry which will not be used full time.
Our difficulty here is that we believe—and those of us who have had something to do with this centralized transport system believe with some considerable degree of past knowledge—that it is not 873 flexible enough to deal with perishable foodstuffs. I much prefer to deal with foodstuffs than with flowers. I quite understand the value of flowers in the home, but it is vitally important—and anybody who has been Minister of Food must know this—that you should have no delay in bringing perishable foodstuffs from the farm to the person who is going to consume them. In these days, when we have so little meat and rely quite a lot on the market garden, I cannot see why meat—which is in small quantity and unfortunately provides very little of our diet—should be excluded from this Bill, and not perishable foodstuffs. As the noble Lord, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, knows, we are encouraging people to grow these foodstuffs on their farms, and there should surely be nothing put in the way of those goods coming to their destination at the earliest possible moment. If we pass this Amendment we should not exclude the Commission from dealing with these perishable foodstuffs if they can provide the best service. But let us just see, in this case, because of its great importance to the ordinary housewife and the person who has such difficulty nowadays in managing the home, whether we should not have the greatest possible flexibility and so accept this Amendment.
I would like to leave it in this way at this stage of the proceedings. I would like the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, or the noble Lord who has just replied, to say that they will discuss it with the Minister between now and the Report stage, to see whether anything cannot be done in the meanwhile, so that no possible obstacle shall be put between the housewife and the market garden or farm from which she gets so much of her supplies week by week for her home.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will gladly discuss this Amendment with the Minister, but on the plain understanding that the Minister's views have already been ascertained and have been represented by him to my noble friend Lord Nathan. I will do that on the plain understanding that I am not in the slightest degree committed, or leading your Lordships to suppose that I am committed, to make any alteration in the Bill. So long as I do not mislead your Lordships in any respect, I am perfectly prepared to discuss this or any other matter 874 with the Minister, and tell him that your Lordships have expressed certain views. It does seem to me that there is a sort of underlying idea that the Commission are going to he a complete flop, and no good at their work. I ask your Lordships to give them a chance.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount for responding to my appeal. All I would say, in answer to what he said, is to ask the Minister to reconsider it again, looking at it in the light of what has been said in your Lordships' House. I know that the noble and learned Viscount cannot commit himself to anything more than that. Do not let us go away with the idea that if we were to put in this Amendment the Commission could not carry out any of these duties, because they could. They could then, in actual fact, prove whether they could give equally good service as the people who have been doing it for some time. If hey do give better service, no doubt the producers and retailers will rush to employ the Commission, and then they will say what a wonderful body they are. If not, then we have the second string, because the housewives know that, up to date, they have had quite a good service from private enterprise.
§ EARL HOWE
May I ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when he has his talk with the Minister, whether he could represent to the Minister the very difficult case of the man who is dissatisfied or does not get a prompt and efficient service, which the noble and learned Viscount himself postulated in the case of milk. No doubt that applies with equal force to vegetables and other perishables. It is no use telling a man that if he does not like it he can go and buy a lorry, because he cannot do that. What we want to be sure of is that if this Bill passes in anything like its present form there should be really efficient and prompt machinery, so that the small man is not compelled to take advantage of the Crown Proceedings Bill and things like that. There should be an easy and efficient method of entering and registering complaints, and of having some action taken. It was said that you could write to a Member of Parliament, but that is not good enough. If the noble and learned 875 Viscount could include that when he has his talk with the Minister, I should be, for my own part, extremely grateful.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Why should the traders be left to the "C" licence as the only alternative? Why should they be made to "suffer a 'C' change into something new and strange"?
The noble Earl accused us yesterday of being extinct volcanoes, but because we were following an established Parliamentary practice the private Peers have not been intervening. On this occasion I want to assure him that I have still some fire in my belly. If my noble friend will look at Clause 69 he will see there is a very good arrangement set up under the Consultative Committee to receive just the sort of complaint he has in mind. I am sure my noble friend is aware of that but he may, for the moment, have overlooked it.
I feel rather concerned because the noble and learned Viscount keeps saying "Give this Commission a chance." We are talking about perishable goods and I would ask: If the Commission are not successful—and the noble and learned Viscount does not suggest they must inevitably be successful—what is to happen to our milk? Are we to have to put up with milk which has been infected?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think the noble Viscount is a bit late on this question. We have dealt with milk and have now made an "exception" of it. We had a Division on it, and according to noble Lords' view, milk is now all right.
I cannot help feeling that the noble Lord who replied to this Amendment made out a very weak case. I still feel that the exclusion of perishable foodstuffs is a very important Amendment, and even if this Amendment were accepted, the Commission could still carry out this work. We on this side of the House feel that we must reserve our right to deal with this subject again on the Report stage, but in view of the state- 876 ment made by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, I do not propose to press this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "meat" to insert "carriage of films." The noble Lord said: This Amendment should read, under the Bill as it has been amended: "After 'milk' insert 'carriage of films'". This is, in more than one way, an important Amendment. We have far too few British films made in this country. We are also, in my view—perhaps I say this only because I have a bias as an ex-Minister of Food—spending rather too many dollars on American films and far too few on food. At any rate, it is quite clear that we ought to make the utmost possible use of the films that we obtain. I believe that one of the first things that will happen when this Commission take over is that there will be a considerable demand for all operatives under it to join the Transport and General Workers' Union and to make a general contract a condition of service.
One of the first things we heard when the Coal Mines Commission was set up was a demand from the miners for a five-day week, and that was granted. I do not know whether something of this sort may not happen in regard to the transport industry. Nearly every cinema changes its programme twice a week and all of them change it once a week. That change takes place on Saturday evenings. At ten or eleven o'clock at night the cinema finishes its show; the films have then to be collected, and are taken to the next cinema on the list for exhibition the next day, probably having to be cleaned before that exhibition. This service of taking films from one cinema to another has, up to date, been provided by fifty-eight operative companies, who use 300 vehicles especially for this purpose. I am told that they serve some 4,600 cinemas up and down the country, and they have provided an admirable service.
I am one of those who doubt whether this Commission will provide as good a service, and I say this not out of a general prejudice, but because I know that during the war many Ministries had what were called "trailers"—short films 877 which come between the long films. The Ministry of Transport still have some in connexion with the road accident prevention campaign, and the Ministry of Food had and have food flashes. Between the different Ministries there were some 2,700 trailers each week. The Ministries went jointly to the General Post Office and said: "Will you undertake for us the circulation of these trailers from one cinema to another?" I have always looked upon the General Post Office as an efficient Government Department. The General Post Office tried, and they came back to the Ministries soon afterwards and said: "We do not like this job. We cannot do it very well. We wish you would give it back to those road operators who are used to doing it." And so, in that very recent case, the job was handed over by the Ministries to people accustomed to transporting films; and the Government trailers were handled by them thereafter.
With that experience behind us, I think we should be taking a certain amount of risk by handing this film circulation over to this new Transport Commission. I think it is far better to leave it. Moreover, there would be a most frightful rumpus from not one but a number of Members of Parliament if cinemas were shut down because of something going wrong with this Commission. If I were Minister of Transport, I should be rather glad not to have the responsibility for an announcement in a cinema that there could be no show because the Transport Commission had failed to deliver the film. I can quite visualise that happening. I should hate to be Minister of Transport, and become so unpopular with some thousands of people, all of whom had paid for their seats, because the film never turned up. My submission is that this work has been admirably carried out in the past, and we certainly do not want any kind of hitch in the transport of films from one cinema to another. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 32, after ("meat") insert the said words.—(Lord Llewellin.)
I should like to support the Amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, said yesterday, the Road Transport industry is in many ways a particularly specialized and individual industry, much more, for example, than 878 are the railways. This, I submit, is an example of a particularly specialized little section of the transport industry which does a particular job. What is more, it is an extremely efficient industry. I am told that last winter, when road traffic practically all over the country was slowed down, there was not a single cinema in the country which did not have its full programme delivered. I was told of one case where a cinema was six feet under water, and the films were delivered by boat. Under this Commission I do not know what would be done. I suppose the carriers would have to make a special application in triplicate in order to do it. But they have a fine record of achievement. and I do support what my noble friend has said, that this is an industry, or a very small section of the transport industry, which ought to be excluded.
Furthermore, I would like to emphasize again what he has said. The noble and learned Viscount is always appealing to us to give this Commission a chance. I am sure we all want to give them a chance. He also tells us that he is sure that they will be quite as good and efficient as anything we have at present. I do not wish to dispute that in any way, but here is an example of something which has been tried in similar circumstances to those outlined by my noble friend before; that is to say, the Ministries tried it out with these trailers, and it did not work. I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount can say that with this particular class of goods we are justified, after that experiment, in handing them over to the Commission. Therefore I strongly support what has been said by my noble friend, Lord Llewellin.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think that this is an Amendment which I ought to consider accepting. After all, it has nothing like the strength of the other cases which I have resisted. I do not know, but I thought I had not infrequently seen films being carried by rail. I should be rather surprised to hear that a good deal of this film change is not in fact done by rail, but I quite realize that a good part of it is done by road. There is nothing peculiar or particular about the vehicle, nothing that the driver of the vehicle has to do apart from driving the vehicle. It is a sample and perfectly straightforward affair of driving the film to the appropriate place and there 879 delivering it. Even with long distance traffic—it may be short for all I know—I entirely fail to see why we should exempt that traffic if we are to take over other traffic; and that being so I am afraid I cannot possibly accept this Amendment. Again I say, as I have often said before, that this is a matter in which the Commission will, as I hope and believe, be able to do a thoroughly good job of work, and do it with an efficiency equal to that with which it has been done before. I do not think that a war time experiment, in very special circumstances, is any criterion at all as to what we could do, and I ask your Lordships to say that no difficulty whatever will arise by taking this over from industry, and that therefore we ought to adhere to the scheme of the Bill and keep this in.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
All I would say, in conclusion, is that I am glad that by the words he used the noble and learned Viscount has by inference accepted that we made a very strong case for the perishable foodstuffs. On this particular point I would only say this: You have been warned, and if the Commission fail, and the people in the cinemas do not get their performance when they have paid for their seats, we shall be able to point to the fact that some of us rose in this House and warned the Government in advance that that might well happen. With those few words I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, in the proviso to subsection (2) after "meat" to insert:
the carriage in bulk in a vehicle fitted with tipping gear of sand, ballast, concrete, tarmac and other road-making aggregates and materials, rubbish, hard-core coal, coke and cinders.
§ The noble Earl said: When I looked through the list of these Amendments I was forced to conclude that many of the Amendments in this particular matter in advance of mine were greatly superior and had more strength. But the most important thing is that my Amendment falls exactly into the definition which has been so clearly and forcibly laid down to your Lordships by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. Indeed, it is precisely this type of work which does 880 take a specialized vehicle, and specialized knowledge is required.
§ This Amendment seeks to include under excepted traffic the carriage of sand, ballast and other low grade materials by a vehicle fitted with tipping gear. It is quite clear that this is a highly specialized vehicle. It is a vehicle which is not only specialized in function, but it is also specialized in the amount which it can carry; that is to say, it can only carry material of a high specific gravity, because in fact it is not designed to carry a full weight of lighter commodity. It also requires specialized knowledge in the operation of the vehicle. Not only does it require specialized knowledge in the operation of the vehicle, but also it requires specialized knowledge in the operation of the tipping gear. Therefore I suggest that it falls strictly into the definition which has been given to us, and it will be interesting to hear what logical reasons, if any, can be advanced which will be directly contrary to those which the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has already given.
§ There are other reasons which put this vehicle into a special category. In the first place it carries low-grade materials. These are materials which do not compete with the railway companies, because in low-grade materials the railway companies can obviously charge a lower rate, and only in special cases will it be possible to carry any of these materials by lorry. A further point is that nearly all this work is done at short distances. About 90 per cent. of it, I understand, will in fact not come within the definition we have agreed of long distance travel. That means to say that about 10 per cent. of these specialized vehicles, doing specialized jobs, will be left with the Commission, and I submit for that reason that it is in the Commission's interest not to touch a highly specialized department of that sort, and that in accordance with the principles, if I may say so, which have been laid down by the noble and learned Viscount, the Government should accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 32, after ("meat") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sure it is my fault but I am afraid I did not know anything about this Amendment 881 until about three or four minutes ago. I see that some note has been prepared for me on it, but what I would like to do, if I may suggest it, is this: I agree up to a point with the noble Earl. He has a specialized vehicle; that is a point in his favour. On the other hand, it scorns to me that the specialized vehicle could be used for all sorts of purposes, and at the present moment I am doubtful whether there is any reason why the long distance traffic should not go to the Commission. But if, without in any way committing myself, and entirely without prejudice, I may suggest that he withdraws his Amendment at the present time, I myself will go into it with the Minister and see what the position is.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I would like to thank the noble and learned Viscount for what he has said. I would add that this is a specialized vehicle which could not be used for other purposes, owing to its comparatively small size compared with the weight which it is capable of carrying. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD ROCHDALE moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "livestock" to insert "the carriage of dangerous drugs." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend and myself. This Amendment deals with dangerous drugs, and dangerous drugs are the concern of the pharmaceutical industry. It may be of help if I tell your Lordships how most of their goods are carried. For the most part in this trade the goods are carried in "C" licensed vehicles, but there are a small number of vehicles, perhaps of the order of about 100, which are the property of private hauliers operating under "A" licences which are used by certain members of this trade. It goes without saying, perhaps, that in a large number of cases this relatively small number of vehicles have to go outside the 25 miles limit. The delivery of drugs is a highly specialized job.
§ For the most part, the average load of these materials consists, as to perhaps three-quarters, of dangerous substances, mostly in bottles or breakable vessels of some kind. And loads may consist of a variety of things, dangerous drugs, 882 poisons, acids, special therapeutic substances that are expensive and in short supply—such as penicillin for instance—even including some that may have to have special treatment, such as being kept under cold storage conditions. Those are the sort of substances to which this Amendment refers.
§ In order that the substances may be handled as easily as possible they are usually carried in special trays which go into the bodies of these vehicles, which are specially fitted for them. It is a purpose of this system to ensure that the work of packing, and the materials employed for packing, shall be kept to the minimum. But it carries with it the other obligation that in order to handle these substances a fairly high degree of skill on the part of the drivers and people who load them into the vehicles is required, not only to safeguard the materials and to make sure that they arrive safely, promptly and unadulterated at the other end, but to safeguard the men themselves. If substances such as some of those to which I have referred were carelessly handled, the men might be subjected to grave risks. Therefore the points that have come up in other similar Amendments to this clause—namely, points with regard to the need for special vehicles, and the need for special skill in dealing with substances concerned—seem to me to be covered in this Amendment. Those criteria seem to me to have been achieved here, and I strongly urge His Majesty's Government to consider this Amendment. I believe there is a considerable amount of justification for it, although the proportions, as regards the bulk of these materials, are relatively small. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 33, after ("livestock") insert ("the carriage of dangerous drugs").—(Lord Rochdale.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
With the best will in the world, having considered this matter, and having heard what the noble Lord has had to say upon it, I cannot think that he has brought this case within the category of the specialized vehicle. He does not seek to bring it within that other category in which the driver has to do something in respect of the goods other than drive his vehicle. Although it may be that these goods are sometimes put in a tray so as to avoid 883 much packing, you cannot, I think, pretend that there is anything in the nature of a specialized vehicle required. These goods can be carried in practically any vehicle. No doubt you need special care in their handling, in order to ensure that they do not get broken. But that applies to a vast number of vehicles, and I do not think there can be any ground whatever, when you reflect upon this, for singling out dangerous drugs from the vast mass of other materials which also require to be carried with great skill, care and caution. Therefore, I am sorry that we cannot accept this Amendment.
The noble and learned Viscount said that I did not seek to claim the second criterion—that is the criterion of special skill on the part of the men concerned. That is not quite the case. This trade, as it is now done, is carried on by men who have done the job for some considerable time (I am referring to the drivers) and it is their responsibility, in many cases, to supervize the loading of the materials and their unloading at the destination; so, I claim that this is a case in which the criterion of special skill applies.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ LORD O'HAGAN moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "livestock" to insert "the carriage of agricultural produce, animal feeding stuffs, and seeds." The noble Lord said: A great deal of what is contained in this Amendment comes in the same category as that of perishable goods. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has been good enough to say that he will look into that matter between now and the Report stage. I do not wish to elaborate this now, because there is so much which can be based on practically the same arguments as have been advanced before. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will be able to give us some assurance on this point also.
Page 48, line 33, after ("livestock") insert the said words.—(Lord O'Hagan.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid that I cannot give any assurance about these matters. With regard to things that come into the category of perishable foodstuffs, I have already given an undertaking, to which I adhere. But 884 the carriage of agricultural produce, animal feeding stuffs and seeds would be an exception which I could not possibly hold out any hope whatever of being accepted. I should be sorry to get this in any way mixed up with the very different category of perishable goods which has previously been alluded to.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
had given notice to move, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "livestock" to insert "the carriage of round timber in vehicles specially constructed or adapted for the purpose". The noble Lord said: I have been greatly encouraged, listening to the discussions which have so far taken place upon these various items which we have asked to have excluded. This Amendment would involve the exclusion of "the carriage of round timber in vehicles specially constructed or adapted for that purpose." I would rather like, if I may, with the permission of the Committee, to move the Amendment omitting the word "round." But I would not do so if the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, were to give some indication that he was prepared to accept the Amendment with that word in it. I do not know whether or not he is going to, but, if I may make the case generally, we will see what he has got to say.
The sort of loads which are carried in this connexion are always awkward loads. They cover such things as telegraph poles of from twenty feet to sixty feet in length, whole trees of from two tons to ten tons in weight, and of all lengths and shapes. I am told that they also include timber for boat building in lengths of from twenty feet to sixty feet. This is a specialized business, and I am told by an important firm of timber merchants in Scotland, with whom I have been in correspondence upon this, that they run a number of vehicles under "C" licences, but also have vehicles under "A" and "B" licences as well, and I am afraid that even the extensions we have made of long distance haulage will not be sufficient to cover the whole of this specialized business. I am told by this firm that to avoid double handling they need an area of 150 miles.
Another aspect of the matter which calls for consideration is the frequency with 885 which urgent requests come along for special loads, required, for instance, for collieries. I am told that the firm have to send timber of different shapes and sizes—very often pit props, which would, of course, be "round" timber—to collieries. It is important material, and it is important that it should be moved quickly and as it is wanted. The point about round timber is that it is cut in the forests, very often at great distances from the railway, and I understand that of all the sawmills of this particular firm, only two have rail connexions. The others are situated a long way from such connexions. It seems to me that here there is a very good case, both with regard to special skill and vehicles specially constructed. I will not detain your Lordships further, but will simply move my Amendment, omitting the word "round," in the hope that the noble and learned Viscount may see his way to look upon it with favour. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 33, after ("livestock") insert: ("the carriage of timber in vehicles specially constructed o adapted for the purpose").—(Lord Balfour of Rayleigh.)
§ LORD TWEEDSMUIR
I would like, very briefly, to support this Amendment. It deals with what is indeed a specialized form of business. Timber hauliers mostly fell the timber they haul, and there are three distinct operations. First there is the felling by hand, which means dragging the timber to the road, and then the quite separate operation of hauling it to the sawmill. In these first two operations the vehicles need no licence, as they are track-laying tractors and such. Quite a large proportion of the timber hauliers' capital is sunk in these vehicles. They are separate from the third operation, that of road haulage, which does require a licence. If there is a case for excluding furniture removals, there is an equally good one for excluding these vehicles, which are adapted for very little else and are equally as specialist as the vehicles so far excepted. The question of distance is another point. Often the haul from felling site to delivery point is very short, but these vehicles may be hauling now in Kent, at another time in Hampshire, and again in North Wales; and the distance from the operating centre may be very great. In view of the extraordinary specialist demands and requirements of this form of business, I beg to support the Amendment.
I wish to support the Amendment on the same grounds. There is no doubt about the specialist character of the vehicles. I would like to turn to some of the specialist service rendered by the drivers. In many cases the driver is one of the team which has to load timber on to a waggon—by no means a simple and easy thing to do. It is generally done by means of sheer legs and a tractor pulling on a system of blocks. The driver takes part in these very dangerous operations. The noble Lord who has just spoken said timber merchants do their felling at considerable distances from home, although the journeys from where they fell to the sawmill are not long. On the other hand, there is often no rail access to where they are felling and they have to make considerable journeys to get timber to the sawmills. Many timber merchants have their own "C" licence waggons and do all this work with them; but a large number have waggons that carry up to a certain size only, and for larger timber they employ a contractor who specializes in "this work. In cases like that, only that kind of vehicle, with that kind of equipment, and that kind of specially trained man, can do anything which will help.
Another point concerns the driver. After timber is extracted, getting it out on to the road often means working through growing woodlands, and an inexperienced man driving can do a great deal of damage. Altogether I think this is an Amendment which has all the grounds which have been given in debate to-day to justify its acceptance. This type of haulage includes, probably, only a few waggons, which could hardly be used to work in with the other operations of the Transport Commission to make a coordinated system of transport. It would be worse than useless.
My Lords, I wish to raise one other small point of some importance. It is clear from the Bill that the timber hauliers are not to be put out of business. They are going on. In most cases the hauls to the sawmills are short ones. The Commission, if they are to carry out the long hauls of timber in cases where necessary, will have considerable difficulty because they will have to find skilled men for this extremely dangerous and highly skilled work. They will have to compete for these men with 887 the people at present in business, or will have to get themselves inexperienced men and put them on the job, with the possible result of serious accident. It must be to the Commission a limited business, with very little profit. Of course, the Government may be better informed than I am about the supply of men skilled with timber, and if that is so my suggestion falls to the ground. If I am right, it is a matter which should be considered by the Government before embarking on the scheme.
§ LORD COURTHOPE
My Lords, may I say a word? I do so on rather a strange coincidence, which illustrates the great complexity of the vehicles required for hauling of timber. It happened within the last three or four days that I have had to employ three entirely different types of specially constructed vehicles for the hauling of timber. One has been used to haul large logs for the repair of Westminster Hall—the logs are lying there now. The logs were of a size which made it impossible for my own lorry, which I run under "C" licence, to carry them. One of them was too heavy to be loaded on to the railway by any appliances at a local station and a great many 24-foot rafters were too long for the normal railway truck and had to come here by road. A very heavy pole waggon, with a mechanical winding gear, was required for bringing to my timber yard trees recently felled. And to-day another waggon of quite a different type is taking a lot of 40-foot poles to Bisley to complete the National Rifle Association's Rifle Ranges for the meeting which is coming off soon.
On that, may I say that I hope some of your Lordships will be competing there against our "democratic enemies," if I may so describe them. When I used to shoot for another place, we described the Lords' team as "our hereditary enemies," so perhaps I may retaliate in this way. I hope that those who do go and shoot at Bisley on July 12 will find those poles a valuable help in wind judging, which is somewhat difficult on Bisley Range. I raise the point not because I have been in particular difficulties—I know where to get transport—but to show that there had to be provided, for essential work, three different types of special transport, which a business as reasonably 888 well-equipped as I think my timber yard is, could not supply for itself. I think that justifies me in supporting the Amendment.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I must say I have very considerable sympathy with this Amendment. My difficulty in accepting it, however, is that I am not satisfied with the words as they are printed. Still less am I satisfied with the omission of the word "round". The whole difficulty—and I admit I have not solved it to my own satisfaction yet—is finding appropriate words. If we are simply to say "timber", or even "round timber", that would include, for example, pit-props, which are round timber but which you can pick up with your hands, and for the hauling of which you can adapt the vehicle easily to make the load a little higher. That is the sort of case none of your Lordships has in mind, but it would come within this form of words. If I could devise a form of words which would fit a vehicle to carry heavy timber, requiring appliances and considerable skill to load, then in that case I think we should accept.
I shall be pleased to do what I may to find a form of words, and if necessary to discuss it with the noble Lords interested. I cannot promise that I shall be able to do so, because I have tried and failed. But I have no doubt that the Parliamentary draftsman will probably be able to succeed where I have failed; if he can find a form of words, I shall be happy to see they are put in the Bill. If your Lordships would not mind leaving it in this way, and not press the Amendment, I will say no more than this—I will do the best I can.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
After the stone-walling the noble Viscount has found it necessary to administer to the Committee, this is like a breath of fresh air.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
I hope the noble and learned Viscount will not narrow the scope of this Amendment too much because, from his knowledge of the forests in Scotland as well as in England, he will know it is essential for the timber merchant to obtain vehicles suitable for moving the round timber from the woods, and the timber from the sawmills, which often have to be situated in the woods, to the next users. I hope very much there will 889 be scope for the inclusion of converted as well as round timber.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will talk to the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, because I know he has great knowledge of this, and he and I have seen these things together. The sort of word I had in mind was the word "heavy" or "large," but I do not quite know how I can express that in an Act of Parliament. If I simply used the word "large" there would be borderline cases, and the problem of whether or not a piece of timber was large. On the other hand, to set out all the measures would also be ineffective.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I would like to consult with my correspondents who are highly specialized in this matter, and they may be able to make suggestions. I thank the noble Duke who has just spoken for his help, and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD TEYNHAM moved, in the proviso to subsection (2), after "loads" to insert "and any vehicles ancillary to their operation." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is a simple one, and it is to add certain vehicles which are used in conjunction with specialist vehicles for the transport of heavy machinery, such as electrical transformers, marine engines, and, in some cases, locomotives. In order to transport these heavy abnormal loads it is frequently necessary to detach some sections of the load and to carry them on ordinary type vehicles, and tools and special gear have to be carried in order to effect the loading and unloading of these vehicles. This Amendment is simply to clarify the words which appear in the Bill, "Vehicles specially constructed to carry abnormal indivisible loads." so that the ancillary vehicles will not be treated as ordinary long distance carriage when carrying sections of heavy machinery. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 34, after ("loads") insert the said words.—(Lord Teynham.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment. I quite understand what the noble Lord has in mind. He appears to wish to add to the list of exempted traffic vehicles 890 which are customarily used to convey materials used in the unloading and removal at the delivery point of heavy indivisible loads. But the words "ancillary to their operation" are vague, and would give rise to all sorts of disputes and genuine doubt. The objection I have to the Amendment is that it covers the ancillary vehicles and not the ancillary goods. As the vehicles which are used in this ancillary way may be ordinary vehicles they might, having received this kind of blessing, be used to carry ordinary goods which are not connected in any way with the carriage of abnormal indivisible loads. As I see it, we cannot therefore accept this Amendment without laying ourselves open to great difficulty. In suitable cases there is no difficulty in obtaining a permit to carry the tackle required for the purpose of handling heavy indivisible loads, and probably in that way the difficulty would be surmounted. But to except a vehicle just because it has on one occasion been used as an ancillary vehicle, and thereby give it a kind of free run, whatever it carries in the future, is a proposition which the noble Lord will see is quite impossible.
This Amendment is really to cover vehicles that are continuously used for this particular business of carrying indivisible loads and sections of heavy loads.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot accept the Amendment as it is, because it is excepting not merely ancillary goods but ancillary vehicles.
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
Surely it is quite unreasonable to expect a haulier to obtain a permit every time he wants to carry tools for these heavy indivisible loads which are excluded under the Bill. This Amendment has been put forward in good faith by people who understand what is required when these heavy indivisible loads are carried. A certain amount of tools and unloading equipment have to be carried with the indivisible load. Surely that is the position, and that can be easily understood by everybody. But, if I understand the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. aright, a man has to get a permit every time he wants to carry the gear and tools which are necessary for these indivisible loads. That position is really intolerable. 891 I hope the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, will look into it, and if it is a reasonable request (it seems most reasonable to me) it should be added to the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I understand that the Lord Chancellor says it is quite right that the fellow should carry his tackle along with him. He cannot carry it on these specially constructed vehicles, he has to carry it on something else, and in order to do that he has to have a permit. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, says you must limit him in that way because if you give him an exemption in the form suggested he would be able to carry something else in his vehicle. Is that right?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
That really seems to be very unreasonable. The prohibition upon him is to be the load. The vehicle has to be ancillary for the purpose and he has to use it for ancillary gear. He has to use it for an object ancillary to the purpose; he cannot use it for carrying furniture or fish for sixty miles because that would be, qua him and qua his vehicle, a prohibited traffic. That being so, it really is a refinement to ask him to obtain a permit every time he wants to do it. Why cannot we say "This is a permitted vehicle for a permitted purpose and, qua that purpose, that vehicle is not to be taken over"?
§ THE EARL OF DUDLEY
I want to be certain that the haulier does not have to get a permit for the specific and perfectly legitimate purpose of carrying his tools. I quite agree with the noble Viscount who has just spoken—he should not be allowed to carrying anything except the tools and ancillary gear that is required for his purpose.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think if we have this Amendment it ought to be put in Clause 52 and not in Clause 39, and it ought to contain some words such as "and any vehicle whilst being used solely for a purpose ancillary to their operation," or words to that effect. I will not say anything about it now, except that I will look into it. When we get to Clause 52 we might perhaps see whether my suggestion meets with 892 approval. At the present moment it does not meet with any approval, but I think it merits some, and I will see what I can do.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
If I may say so, I quite agree. Listening to the discussion, it seemed to me that the phrase on the paper did not quite express what was meant. What is meant is that the vehicles should be used solely as ancillary for that purpose.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The next Amendment is really consequential on a previous one moved to Clause 39. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 36, leave out ("forty") and insert ("eighty").—(Lord Teynham.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
This must follow from your Lordships' previous decision. So long as I am not supposed to be an assenting party to this decision, I will not oppose this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.12 p.m.
THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved, after subsection (3) to insert:
(4) The provisions of this section shall not apply to an undertaking whose operating centre and activities are in such areas of the seven crofting counties as the Minister after consultations with the Secretary of State shall designate in so far as such activities are confined to the said areas.
The noble Lord said: I move this Amendment, the purpose of which is to make special provision for that part of this island beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh. The case is very much strengthened by what the Minister has himself said in regard to this particular problem; indeed, it does not need to be argued, because it is as clear as crystal to anyone who realizes how the matter stands. I would like to quote what the Minister said, because I think it is important, and it is very much appreciated that he has realized that there is, at least, a problem, His words were:
Once Glasgow and Edinburgh are left behind, we come up against an entirely different problem in the field of transport.
It is a very nice phrase to use, but when you look at this Bill you might just as well stand at Piccadilly Circus as at Ullapool, and Ullapool is thirty miles from the station. There is not one word which makes allowance for any difficulties in traffic facilities, whether you are standing in this great city or anywhere else in the rest of this island. That does not coincide with what the Minister has said, and words are really of no use in a matter of this sort.
§ Nor does it coincide with what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said in presenting this Bill to this House. He said that the haulier should have a fair field for operation. Unless we put through some Amendment to this Clause 39, every single haulier in the area beyond Edinburgh and Glasgow, or, at least, beyond the highland line, will be nationalized. I would like to ask His Majesty's Government whether it is in fact their intention that every haulier Shall he taken over and that the whole responsibility shall rest with the Commission—both for long and for short haulage—for the whole of that area. I do not propose to develop this argument, because I think it stands quite clearly by itself. There is absolutely no comparison between any area in the rest of this country with regard to distances.
§ It may be argued that there are larger distances—and there are—but in a place, for instance, like Campbeltown, you can go 25 miles and you do not even get to a town at all; and there is only one road. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, made great play of the fact that in this circle, 25 miles in radius, there is an area of something rather under 2,000 square miles. That may be very interesting, if there are roads, but 2,000 square miles means absolutely nothing if there are no roads; and the result is that it has no bearing whatever on the points which the noble and learned Viscount made. Further, in this area there is no competition with railways, because there are no railways—or very few. Therefore, on the whole basis of this Bill, which, so far as I can see, is to bolster up the railways, there will be no objection to the principle of substantially reducing the obligation of the road hauliers under the Bill in that particular area.
§ There is a further point I would like to make. and it is this. There is no "cream" in the Highlands; there are no 894 vast fortunes to be made from hauling traffic in an area like that. It is sheer madness to restrict transport in that area at all. Transport in the Highlands is difficult. If the Commission can run there, I shall be only too glad; but do not prevent anyone from running there, where the biggest demand is for improved transport facilities. I would like to add this, finally. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House gave, as one of his objections to postponing the appointed day, that it would result in paralysing uncertainty. Before all these hauliers are taken over there will be a period of paralysing uncertainty. In this area it is very important that the transport facilities should be maintained, so far as it is practicable.
§ I will not add anything to what I have said on this line, except to say that my Amendment is very modest: in fact, it is so modest that I know I shall be attacked for not being a little—shall I say—more forthcoming. What the Amendment asks is that the clause shall not apply to the seven crofting counties as defined in the Crofting Holding Act, 1886. I think I can best describe the seven crofting counties by saying which counties do not come into that category. Only the counties in the extreme north are included in the seven crofting counties—that is to say, north of Dumbarton, Perthshire, Angus and Aberdeenshire. The crofting counties are all north of those counties, and include, of course, Orkney and Shetland. The Amendment goes further, and says that in these areas the Minister of Transport may, after consulting the Secretary of State for Scotland, decide to which areas the effect of Clause 39 shall not apply. I think your Lordships must agree that it is a very modest request indeed. It is not asking very much of His Majesty's Government. The Minister has already expressed a realization of the nature and quality of the problem, but he has not troubled to put one word into this Bill to give expression to his thoughts. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 39, at end, insert the said subsection.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ LORD SALTOUN moved to leave out from "in" where that word first occurs to the end of the Amendment, and to insert "Scotland". The noble Lord said: A perusal of this Bill has convinced 895 me that in spite of its unfortunate attitude towards the question of Prestwich, which many of my noble friends deplore, His Majesty's Government are quite determined to make Scotland air-minded, because the only place that will be open to us will be the air. Although I have tried to exempt the whole of Scotland from these provisions, I do not suggest that the exemption should apply only to Scotland. I would be quite willing to include many parts of England—probably Cumberland, districts of Wales, and parts of Cornwall—which subscribe to the condition. I would be very glad if the Government would consider some method of exempting from this clause districts which conform to the proper conditions. In Scotland, there are a few comparatively large towns. As I pointed out to your Lordships the other night, for many natural reasons, apart from Dundee and Edinburgh, all these large towns lie at the foot of the Grampians, and most of them are separated by rather sparsely populated country. Moreover, the country has a coast line which is far greater than that of England, and that is one reason why those towns are so situated. They cannot be situated in the Highlands, and they must be situated above the inlets of the sea. That is why Scotland has had so many capitals in the past.
§ Let me give the conditions in my own county of Aberdeenshire, just to show you what will happen. Aberdeenshire and the two counties which lie practically with it, Banff and Moray, is a great rhombus, a line from the south-west to the north-east being about 100 miles in the long diagonal and about 80 or 90 miles in the short diagonal. Aberdeen lies at the south-cast corner of that area, and practically every business interest is connected in some way or other with Aberdeen. Getting down to [...]r2, as the noble and learned Viscount suggested last night, I would like to point out that while his beautiful circle applies very well if you are living in Derby or Nottingham, and there are many great cities with which you can trade within that area, yet if you apply it to Scotland your [...]r2 is not 2,000 miles, but very often only 500 miles. If you take that circle in Aberdeenshire from the Grampians round to the sea, you have roughly a quarter circle are, and your 25 miles will 896 give you about 500 square miles. That means, therefore, that this criterion would operate to separate seven-eighths of those counties from their natural business centre.
§ What are the Commission going to do? Are they going to centre an enormous transport organization in Aberdeen? The curious thing about this area is that most of the big transport businesses are peripheral; they are situated outside this 25 miles limit round the corners of Banffshire. These distances are very big. I will quote the case of one of these men during the war. His business was mostly local and he was carrying goods weekly from the North to Nottingham. He always came back with a full load until the traffic was pooled in the interests of national economy, after which he always came back empty. However that may be, let us suppose that the Commission do not centre in Aberdeen. There is a considerable and very important traffic between the various districts, which all have ancient names and ancient history. These connexions cannot be carried out on any 25 miles radius it is completely impossible. Suppose the Commission centre a great business in Aberdeen. That means that every point in that area is cut off from its neighbour, because the places are separated by wild and difficult country by a good deal more than tire 40 miles, and no small trader operating within the 25 miles radius could possibly carry out the task.
§ Moreover, you are up against cases where, if you apply this criterion, you must force people to a breach of the law. What is a, man to do when he is half way through a job and he finds that the snow or floods have stopped his way, artff he must go outside that complete circle which your Lordships were comparing to a clock face? He is forced either to incur a loss or else to break the law. I think in most cases he will break the law.
§ There is one other point. I do not think His Majesty's Government realize the enormous amount of what might be called gratuitous work that is done in an ordinary country carrier's business. As soon as you replace that with a Government service, the gratuitous work will cease. The country people, who depend very much for the comfort of their lives on these little gratuitous services that they take almost as a matter of course. will 897 be in a much more uncomfortable position, and they will resent it very much. I earnestly beg the Government to take this matter into consideration, and to consider the difference of the problem in a country where great distances are normal, as compared with those thickly populated parts of England where quite a good local business can be carried on and run under the conditions that are imposed by this Bill. I beg to move.
Amendment to Amendment moved—
Leave out from ("in") in the second line to the end of the Amendment and insert ("Scotland").—(Lord Saltoun.)
§ EARL HOWE
On the subject of the circle, there is one concrete instance I would like to mention in support of what has been said by noble Lords representing Scotland. Take Burntisland as an example. The centre of industry is probably on the other side of the Forth, and a trader situated in Burntisland, wanting to send goods from Burntisland to Leith—there is no Forth Bridge at the moment, and it may be it cannot be accommodated in the ferry—has to go all the way round by Kincardine Bridge, and he must go upwards of forty miles in order to get to Leith.
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
I am very much in sympathy with the idea of this Amendment, as any Scotsman would be, or as indeed I would be sympathetic with anybody of any country that was going be compulsorily subjected to this form of political scarlet fever. But I am not quite sure whether it is the intention of my noble friends that this is to be a permissive or a compulsory Amendment. I do not know whether the idea is that the Secretary of State must consult with the Commission to exclude certain counties, or whether he may do so of his own accord. That makes a difference as to whether it is compulsory or permissive. But whichever way it is, I think it would be imposing a most invidious task upon the Secretary of State for Scotland to include some counties and exclude the others. They may be counties in a crofting area, but it is bound to provoke bad feeling when some counties are included and some excluded. I know the special conditions in the crofting areas quite well, but there are many other areas which have just the same difficulties. Indeed, in my own county I think there are more smallhold- 898 ings and more crops per 10,000 acres than you will find in any other 10,000 acres in Scotland, and yet we would be excluded and the other counties would be included. It is bound to create bad feeling.
Imagine what it would be like in England if you legislated and some counties were outside and some were inside. The representatives in another place would be at loggerheads. Indeed, there might be bleeding noses outside. Therefore, I think this Amendment to the Amendment is a very wise thing. I do feel that on the Report stage whether we are to have an Executive Scottish Commission or not should be made definite. If we stand firm and get that, then all these invidious distinctions and all these indefinite clauses do not matter a "tinker's cuss"—to use fashionable language.
I feel somewhat the same as does the noble Duke over this question. I support the Amendment of my noble friend, Lord Saltoun, rather than the modified proposal of the noble Ear], Lord Selkirk, because I do not believe that you can split up Scotland into different areas and apply one form of conditions to one part of Scotland and other conditions to other parts. As the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, ha s pointed out, the conditions in Aberdeenshire are just as difficult in many respects as the conditions in Ross-shire or Selkirk hire.
Take the conditions in Argyllshire. My noble friend the Earl of Selkirk referred to the fact that you have to go 3o miles from Campbeltown before you reach any town at all. I want to tell those noble Lords who are not aware of the fact that Argyllshire is so split up and intersected by lochs and glens and mountains and so on, that the County Council and committees of Argyllshire cannot find a central place in Argyllshire to hold their meetings, and they have to go to Glasgow in order to have them. They have to cross the Clyde at Dunoon, or come down by the coastal steamer and have their meetings in Glasgow. I think that alone is indicative of the difficult conditions that exist there so far as transport is concerned. I cannot conceive that the Transport Commission, however successful they were, could cope with these particular conditions. You have your local steamer services, as well as other transport; you have transport running from one place—sometimes a comparatively short distance, in other cases 899 long distance. It would be a system which would be absolutely uneconomical. It is only possible for private enterprise to compete with these difficulties.
We had a debate the other day on the question of the Scottish Executive, and what I want to suggest to the noble and learned Viscount—and I support the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose—is that the Government should face up to this issue from a really practical point of view and appoint an Executive Committee, or a Commission—I do not mind what you call it, so long as it is a body set up in Scotland which will be able to consider all the Scottish conditions and adopt such practices as will enable the Transport Commission as a whole to carry out their duties in Scotland efficiently and well. I strongly urge the noble and learned Viscount, if he cannot accept this Amendment, to examine the whole question and consider the issue from the point of view which was expressed the other day and which has been so well expressed to-day. We Scottish Peers in this House represent on this question 100 per cent. of Scottish opinion, and I feel that the Government will he doing a great injury to themselves politically—and, I say so deliberately—if they do not see their way to meet the Scottish view in this matter.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
I was unable to be here last week, when your Lordships had a great debate on the position of Scotland and the Scottish Commission. I take this opportunity of homologating exactly all that has been said this afternoon in regard to Scotland. My own county has been mentioned by my noble friend beside me, and I endorse everything he said about Aberdeenshire. But there are other counties in Scotland besides Aberdeenshire; and, as has been pointed out, Scotland is in an entirely different position from England. Take the population of Scotland. It is only about one-twelfth of that of the United Kingdom. Obviously, therefore, the people are farther apart than they are in any part of England; and the farther apart people live, the more vital it is to have satisfactory and efficient transport. And not only is this necessary for the individual; it is necessary also for produce, because obviously where land is cultivated you want to get the best out of that land to the places where the popula- 900 tion live. It is almost as essential for the produce of that land as for the inhabitants.
Take the case of last winter. Last winter, transport was almost impossible, except by way of a few sunken roads which the county council attacked first in clearing snow. I know roads in my county which were closed for three months. Are a Traffic Commission in Whitehall to undertake from London private transport in an area like that? They do not know anything about it. In the North of Scotland it is more common than it is in the South to find these impassable conditions. I would like to reiterate what has been said, that to-day Scotland is an absolutely united population against control from Whitehall. Scotland is a different country, with different circumstances and different temperament. It is essential, if you are to satisfy Scotland, that things shall be done in the Scottish way, from a Scottish centre, by those who understand Scotland. We understand Scotland better than those who live south of it, and a good many noble Lords in the Government, as well as members of another place, have never set foot in Scotland. To understand Scotland you have to live there. If I had my way, no one would be allowed to approach Scottish affairs who had not been born and bred there, or had lived ten years in a rural area; then they would learn something and would be far better administrators.
So with agriculture; no agricultural administration should be undertaken by men who have not lived in the country, because they do not understand the agricultural conditions. In Scotland they have many interests—not only agricultural, of course. People who do not know Scotland do not understand the herring industry, except that they eat the herrings which all come from Scotland, or from Scottish trawlers that in the season fish between Yarmouth and Lowestoft. If you tried to set up a Herring Board in Whitehall they would make a great mess of it. In Scotland we live in exceptional conditions compared with England. The Scottish population is a sparse one, but the people are very industrious; for example Aberdeenshire, before this last war, produced one-fifth of the agricultural produce of the whole of Scotland. You cannot say of any county in England that it produced one-fifth of the total agricultural produce of England. The curious 901 thing is that the further north you go in Scotland the better cultivated is the land. Therefore better transport is necessary to bring the produce through.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I think I must point out to the noble Marquess that we are now discussing the Amendment moved by Lord Saltoun.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
I was pointing out that transport is necessary to bring herring from Scotland. The produce of the agricultural North of Scotland has to be brought south by transport. However, I will not further trespass on the time of the House, except to support all that has been said on behalf of Scotland. May I—and I am sure I speak on behalf of all members of this House—take this opportunity of expressing the delight of all of us at the honour that has been done by His Majesty to the noble Duke.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
With the last sentiment expressed by the noble Marquess I find myself in entire agreement; with every other sentiment he has expressed, I do not find myself in agreement. In another place, where the rules of order are rather stricter than they are here, we should certainly have been called to order if we had done anything other than discuss, in the first place, the Amendment to the Amendment; when we had disposed of that, then—and then only—should we have discussed the Amendment itself. I think I am right in that.
This Amendment, in its amended form, is a most far-reaching Amendment. What it does is to take Scotland out of the Bill altogether. That is, no doubt, what is desired by the noble Lord. At any rate, that is what he is indirectly achieving by his Amendment, because Clause 39 is the clause which provides the first step in the machinery for compulsory acquisition. It tells you what the Commission have to do, as it were, to set the whole machinery in. motion. If they think certain things are likely to happen, they have to do certain things. In that way the matter comes before the tribunal, who have to decide whether or not an undertaking should be taken over. This Amendment says, in effect, that the provision of the clause, in the amended form, shall not apply to Scotland. I am not going to embark at all on the discussion which I understand took place a few days ago, as 902 to whether there should be a separate Scottish Commission. I was not here and I was not, at that time, concerned with the Bill. I express no opinion about that at all. It may be that your Lordships will come to that matter again; or perhaps you may not. But I do say that to ask us to except Scotland from the Bill by taking out Clause 39 is to ask us to do something which is absolutely impossible.
I am not qualified to speak on Scottish matters, according to the criterion which the noble Marquess has laid down—or, at least, no more qualified than he is to speak on English matters. But may I tell him, and the other noble Lord that although we are most anxious to consider the rights and the well-being of Scotland, we realize that Scotland has some problems. which are peculiar to her people, which are much better understood by those who live there, and know those people. On the other hand, some of these problems which have been discussed are just as applicable to England. We in England. have rivers; we in England have the sea. If you happen to have your operating centre—taking an extreme case—at Land's End, you would probably be much worse off than if you had your operating centre at John O'Groats; or perhaps about the same—although I think you will find that Land's End is a peninsula. We have mountains in England; we have hills; we have valleys; we have bogs; we have floods; and we have all sorts of things which you have in Scotland. To have a system whereby you are to try by Act of Parliament to vary the area, to vary the radius of the circle from each operating centre, is absolutely impossible. It is quite unworkable.
All you can do is what we have done in Clause 52 of the Bill. We have. said that the Commission can make up their minds as to whether or not to grant permits, which they have the power to do in particular cases, giving a lorry a greater distance than that normally allowed. I suggest that the right way to deal with this matter is to put in some words, which I will suggest when we come to that clause, making it quite plain that, in making up their minds as to whether they should or should not grant a permit, they should take into consideration the needs of, and special circumstances affecting, the locality in which the operating centre is situated, I make it quite plain that this is one of the factors which we have 903 to consider, and that will apply equally to England and Scotland. I have not said anything about the crofting counties yet, because, being strictly adherent to the rules of order, I propose to say something about that when we have disposed of the Amendment moved to the Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun.
I realize that my Amendment could be quite fairly described by His Majesty's Government as a wrecking Amendment, and I do not want to press it. I feel very pleased that we have had this discussion, because it has brought the matter before your Lordships. I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for what he has said, which I should like very much to examine and consider. There is one thing I want to say further, especially after what my noble friend the Duke of Montrose said; and that is that the whole position of Scotland does very much reinforce the case for a special Scottish Executive. I do not want to argue that now, but there is one point—just something that occurred to me this morning—which brought it to my mind. I was sitting in a nearly empty bus, and it was just starting from the halt when an old woman came up carrying a great suitcase in one hand and an umbrella in the other. She was trying to get on the bus, and the bus went on and never stopped. Look at Punch ninety years ago. Look back, those of your Lordships who can remember it, to the last century. No bus conductor would ever have done that in those days, even though to a man who loves horses it meant stopping and starting his horses again, whereas here it only meant putting out the clutch.
As soon as a service begins to come under a Government, or is in any way connected with a Government, the people who carry out that service begin to disregard the public. That will not do in Scotland, because people will not stand it. I was very angry when I saw it done here. I think most of your Lordships would agree that it is done. That is a very strong reason for a Scottish Executive, and a very strong reason for realizing how much is done gratuitously by ordinary local carriers. I doubt if any Government carrier can do that. But with those few observations I am very glad to withdraw my Amendment.
904 Amendment to the Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Now we come to the original Amendment moved by the noble Earl, the Earl of Selkirk. I speak with hesitation about this matter because, of course, I am not a Scotsman, but on the other hand I do happen to know the seven crofting counties pretty well, and as well as a good many Scotsmen. I felt that one of the most useful things I could try to do, when I was in sort of general charge of reconstruction during the war, was to help these counties. I think one of the tragedies of today is the fact that those counties, or some of them at any rate, are slowly but steadily losing their population, and that some of the men who are the very salt of the earth are leaving those counties, and indeed Scotland.
I have tried for a great many years to make a humble contribution, such as an Englishman can make, towards helping those counties. I have got to know these crofting counties. I have gone around, and have seen and talked to the people. I have discussed their problems with them. And one almost universal experience that I have had has been that they have complained bitterly about their transport system. There is no doubt at all about that. Any one who has been there will know that I am accurate in saying that. Therefore, let it not be supposed that we are in any way depriving these people of a Heaven-sent system which gives them everything they want. Of course, I do not receive letters from Scotland now about proposals of this sort or about Acts of Parliament, but I should be very much surprised if the Scottish Members who sit for these counties, whatever their politics, have had complaints about the proposal to reorganize the existing form of transport and give these people something else. But that is by the way.
I feel that this Amendment is really out of place on Clause 39. It is an Amendment which ought to be taken in connexion with Clause 52, as I see it. That is, you ought to say that you would give greater latitude with regard to operation by reason of the fact that there are great distances in those areas, and that those areas are sparsely populated. As you know, people there often find it necessary to go very long distances, and I suggest that you should give them some concession 905 under Clause 52. Now I say this deliberately—I do hope that this Transport Commission will not think it necessary to make a profit out of every single part of its concerns. I think it most important that in these crofting counties the Commission should give a really good service, even though that service does not pay a monetary dividend. I think we shall get dividends in other ways. indefinable ways—your Lordships will know what I mean. I think we should be justified in doing that. And that, indeed, is the intention of the Minister. I am, therefore, most anxious that the Commission should go to these places and see what they can do to reorganize and improve these services which to-day are felt: to be—and rightly felt to be—quite inadequate for the needs of the people. When you come to Clause 52 (2), which is on page 66, you read:The Commission shall have full power in their discretion either to grant or refuse any such permit as aforesaid …That is a permit to go beyond what is now the 50-mile radius. In this connexion I feel it is right that we should state plainly that in making up their minds as to whether or not to grant such a permit, the Commission should have regard to the peculiar local circumstances, the local conditions, and that sort of thing. So it is quite possible, under my form of words, that they might extend a more benevolent consideration to concerns in such areas, for instance, as the crofting counties, or in the remote country areas of the English counties, by reason of the fact that they are so sparsely populated and that distances which have to be covered are so long. As one knows, in some of these crofting counties, in order to get to a place which is a comparatively short distance away as the crow flies, you have got to go a long way round. I think that we might specify what I have suggested in Clause 52. That is as far as I can go to meet the wishes of the noble Earl—wishes which I say quite frankly that, although, I am an Englishman, I have rather in my own heart.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
While I thank the noble and learned Viscount for what he has just said, I would, if I may, point out that whereas he has delivered us a homily on the subject of procedure, the remarks which he has made have had nothing to do with my Amendment at all. With great respect, I would point out that 906 I was speaking to Clause which deals simply with the mandate to the Commission to take over certain undertakings. I have another Amendment to Clause 52, which is concerned with an entirely different subject. What I was objecting to, and what I still object to—and, I believe, rightly object to—is that it appears that every undertaking in the area in question will be taken over. Is that what noble Lords would call a fair field for the haulier? I think that that is a matter which the noble and learned Viscount might well consider. Frankly, there is no word in what he said just now which suggested that he had considered that point at all.
I would remind him of what the Minister said on this point. We attach great importance to what the Minister has said, because it does show realization on his part that there is a special problem. The Minister said:When we come to the Highlands, we come up against an entirely different problem.I do think that in the matter of the mandate given to the Commission to take over certain undertakings in these areas, there should be some recognition of the fact that the position is entirely different from that which exists in other parts of the country. As the noble and learned Viscount has said, he knows these counties well. He probably knows these areas a great deal better than many people who live in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In fact they are entirely different country from even the Lowlands of Scotland, and I think that in the matter of the taking over of these undertakings they are entitled to some special consideration.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
May I, as one who also has some knowledge of these particular localities, support the noble Earl's plea? I would ask that there should be some consideration of some Amendment—not necessarily of his Amendment—on Clause 39. My knowledge of these crofting counties comes from having administered Unemployment Insurance, and I know how utterly different life is there and how utterly different are conditions generally. In many ways: conditions there are different from those existing anywhere else in Britain. The distances that have to be covered are quite different from those in most other parts of Britain. This clause will mean that any taking over of 907 undertakings there will have a quite disproportionate effect as compared with what it will have anywhere else. I do therefore hope that the Government will be able to consider, if this Amendment is not pressed now, some Amendment to Clause 39, at any rate on the Report stage.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will look into that with the Minister and see if we can make some special arrangement.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I am sure that we are all very much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. We have really come back to the old point about the interdependence of Clause 39 and Clause 52. If you have taken people's businesses over under Clause 39, it is no good giving somebody else powers under Clause 52.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think we might possibly give a sort of discretion to the Commission in these cases and not have an automatic taking over. If something of that sort were arranged I think that would, perhaps, be a way out of the difficulty.
§ THE EARL OE SELKIRK
I would just point out that the Amendment as it stands would have the effect of giving a discretion. In view of what the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has said, however, I now beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [The sitting was suspended at seven o'clock and resumed at half past eight.]
§ LORD BEVERIDGE moved to leave out Clause 39 and insert the following new clause:
§ Provision for appointment of committee on road transport.
§ (".—(1) The Minister shall appoint a Committee of five persons to inquire into the operation of the Road Traffic Act, 193o, the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and other statutes and regulations affecting inland transport of passengers and goods by road, and to make recommendations as to the best way of securing for all parts of Great Britain an efficient and cheap service of transport by road on terms fair to other forms of transport.
§ (2) The Committee shall be required to make their report within a period not exceeding two years to be specified by the Minister and the expenses of the Committee approved by the Treasury shall be deemed to be administrative expenses incurred in the execution of this Act.")908
§ The noble Lord said: In speaking of the first Amendment on Clause 39, the noble and learned Viscount who has taken charge of that section of the Bill for the Government invited me to answer several questions. He asked me what I really want about road transport. He asked whether we wanted "free for all." He even asked me if I had ever driven a car. I could not answer these questions then, because I had already spoken. I will answer them now. And I hope that in replying I shall do something much more important—namely, help the House, and anyone who reads our debates, to understand a little better before we part with Clause 39 just what this part of the Transport Bill is about. First, in regard to what I want. I want—and I think I speak for all those who sit on these Benches with me—that in regard to Part III no decision should be taken on the Government plan for taking over road transport pending an immediate inquiry as to the operation of the Road Rail Traffic Act, with recommendation as to the most efficient systems of providing road transport for the whole country on terms fair to other forms of transport.
§ I have one or two comments to make in regard to what has been said by speakers on the Government side. I want to stress the fact that what we are after is an immediate inquiry, not something that would take two years. When I spoke previously, I pointed out that we could have the results of an inquiry in six months, and six months from now, not six months after the Commission had been appointed. We could get it, in fact, before we could get from the 48,000 road hauliers you propose to take over the returns you would need. May I suggest that the actual drafting of the form of return will tax the ingenuity of the Civil Service very much indeed, and will raise extremely difficult questions? I want, if I may,. to do something which may possibly lighten their task. I want to deal with one or two points which arose in previous discussions and which are not yet cleared up, and which must be cleared up before they draft that form of return and before the wretched hauliers have to fill it in.
§ That is the question whether what is mentioned in Clause 39 (2) by "carriage of goods by the person carrying on the undertaking," and so on, means the carriage of the same parcel of goods. If not, 909 if the vehicle starts on a journey and carries different parcels during different parts of the journey, are they all added together, so that if the vehicle goes out 39 miles with one parcel and comes back 39 miles with another, it will count as long distance? I do not know what it means. It might be desirable to put down an Amendment on Report stage, and if the noble and learned Viscount thinks it will help, I will be happy to put down such an Amendment as "carriage of the same goods" instead of "carriage of goods" in line 23. I am far from certain that that is necessary, but what I am certain of, is that you must be quite clear before you draft your return. That is only one of the innumerable problems that have to be settled under this new system if the Government plan is adopted.
§ The second point I want to stress, in answer to the noble and learned Viscount, is that we are not asking for a decision in favour of "free-for-all" in transport. What we ask is an inquiry to see whether freedom of enterprise can be restored in this industry, and with it stimulating competition. We do not give up the hope of stimulating competition in this industry. We are not prepared to give up that hope without any inquiry as to the necessity for giving it up. That does not mean we want laissez faire in this matter. There are difficult questions of finance, of safety, and of working conditions, all of which must be subject to regulation. We are not afraid that if we have competition there will be congestion. Here is my answer to the last question: I have driven a car for something over 40 years. I have never been able to afford a chauffeur since the First World War, so I have done all the driving myself. I am not nearly so much afraid of congestion if we have "free-for-all" in long distance traffic as I am of congestion by restricting all the hauliers who are not taken over to a twenty-five miles' service. They are then compelled to concentrate in the circle in which they have to work in future, and I believe there will be more congestion, not less, in that way. Those are my answers as to what we want on these Benches.
§ Let me come to this clause with which we are shortly going to part—I wish I could part with it completely. What do we decide if we pass this clause? This clause is concerned only with what undertakings should be nationalized and what undertakings left in private hands. The 910 effect is this: If, as a result of the doing of a sum with regard to these undertakings, 51 per cent. of the total work of the undertaking is ordinary long distance carriage, then that undertaking is taken over and then the Commission can operate 100 per cent. of that undertaking's vehicles in any way it likes without any restrictions. That is the effect of taking over; it can operate the long distance and the short distance vehicles if 51 per cent. of the undertaking is proved to be long distance. If, on the other hand, another undertaking is only 49 per cent. long distance, that undertaking is not taken over—it is left in private hands.
§ But you must not suppose for a moment that that undertaking is left to itself: it is then left to the tender mercies of Clause 52. I want to say at once that I regard Clause 52 as much worse than Clause 39, and, whatever happens to Clause 39, I must reserve complete freedom of action about Clause 52. I have only to mention the title of Clause 52 to show why people on these Benches dislike it so much, and I think that many noble Lords on the Conservative Benches also dislike it. The title is Additional restrictions on, carriage of goods for hire or reward. I wonder they did not think of a more pleasant sounding name. What this means is that everything that is not nationalized is restricted. If it is an "A" or "3" licence it is restricted by Clause 52, otherwise it consists of "C" licences. The numbers of "C" licences have grown very remarkably.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested that the fact that "C" licences had grown so remarkably indicated that there was something wrong with the "A" and "B" licences. I agree; what was wrong with the "A" and "B" licences was that. it was practically a closed industry and it was almost impossible to get a new "A" and "B" licence. It was possible for the "A" and "B" licences to charge more than they would have to charge in fair competition, because they were competing only wiih the hamstrung "C" licence, which cannot take back loads. That is what was wrong. I think many noble Lords will have read a book called I Chose Freedom. What has been happening is that large numbers of people have chosen the freedom of the "C" licences, even at the cost of inefficiency, and many more will choose them under what the Bill is now proposing.911
§ What the Bill is now proposing is inefficiency by Act of Parliament. I suggest that really, if you want to sum up this part of the Bill, it is a confession that a Socialist system is inefficient. I do not think it is putting it too high to say that. First of all, the Government take over the railways they cannot finance themselves unless they reduce enormously the charges to the stockholders; it cannot be made a commercial success except on those lines. And the nationalized road transport cannot pay its way unless all its competitors are hamstrung—unless, in fact, the Transport Commission are in a position to conduct unfair competition with that which is not nationalized. The noble and learned Viscount who spoke for the Government on this repeatedly criticized noble Lords on this side of the House for speaking as if the Transport Commission was bound to be a flop. I suggest that the attitude of the Government is itself a confession of the expectation that it will be a "flop". If the Government cannot take over the railways without doing this horrible injustice—and it is a horrible injustice to the stockholders—and if they cannot take over road transport without hamstringing every possible competitor, that is the most damning indictment of Socialism which has yet been produced.
§ The Amendment on which I am now speaking and the one on which I spoke before are not wrecking Amendments in intention or in effect—unless you call it wrecking this Bill to try to ensure that we realize that there is no escape from a State monopoly based on making all possible competitors inefficient by Act of Parliament. It was accompanied by the steady support which we on these Benches gave to all the other parts of the Bill, on the railways, on the docks, and on everything else. We on these Benches dread monopoly very much indeed: monopoly in the private field, because it exploits the consumers, and monopoly in the State field because it adds the further danger of exploitation by the employees of the State monopoly. We also dread monopoly because we want industries in which there is an opportunity for the small man to become his boss, and that you do not get from this Bill, or anything you do out of the Bill in road transport.
§ This was not in intention or effect a wrecking Amendment. We on these 912 Benches want a great reform in transport in this country. I need hardly say that I was very sorry that the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition agreed with the Government spokesman in saying that this was a wrecking Amendment. I am bound to say, with all respect, that I thought he spoke much more wisely a night or two before when he said that in this House we do not want to divide, but let us put up something, and if it is not accepted, see whether after a week we cannot come nearer together. That is the right way to proceed. After that declaration, it is impossible for me to press this Amendment. Technically I think it is quite important, because it would be possible to have a Road Transport Executive. I want to remind your Lordships that we support the taking over from the railways of a large number of road vehicles. I do not propose to press this Amendment. I should like formally to move it, in order to give an opportunity for anyone in the Government, or anyone else, to add anything if they wish, and thereafter I will naturally ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 48, line 4, leave out Clause 39 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Beveridge.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I would like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said, and to make it clear that I do not consider this to be a wrecking Amendment. There is not a wide difference between what the noble Lord has proposed and what the Govern-have proposed. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, proposes that there should be a Committee to report, and the Government propose that there should be an Executive to plan. It is true that the Government Executives have a certain number of mandatory powers, but we know that those mandatory powers are not based on any previous experience. We are faced with a monopoly—an absolute monopoly. His Majesty's Government have been reluctant to accept that fact, but in quite a wide sphere there is in fact a monopoly.
There are two definite economic results which flow from a monopoly, and it does not matter whether that monopoly is a Government monopoly, or a private monopoly. A Government monopoly, no 913 doubt, has a certain number of additional controls, but these elements and tendencies undoubtedly exist—short supply and high prices. No one can deny that those elements exist in coal, and in civil aviation. I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, would deny that. There may be reasons for it, but we know, for instance, that before the war the problem in regard to coal was overproduction. That fact exists as an economic fact. I do feel that we should recognize that, and I would be glad if His Majesty's Government would recognize the problem witch it involves. I should, perhaps, add that so far as the Bank of England is concerned, it is rather a question of over-production and underprice.
But it is no answer to that for the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, to say that any criticism directed towards this indicates that we believe the Commission will be a "flop." I am not suggesting that the Commission will be a "flop," but I must ask the noble and learned Viscount not to suggest that the Commission will provide better service, because the Commission cannot provide better service. I do not say that because I think they are incompetent to do so, but with all the economics of the situation it is impossible for more traffic or more goods to be carried by the Commission's roadways than by the rails. It is inevitable that traffic must be diverted from the roads to the rails. In other words, we are inevitably bound to have a worse road service. It seems to me that it is natural that in a monopoly, in which the public are to be driven from the choice of traffic, His Majesty's Government must recognize two things: either they must have an alternative or they must provide proper safeguards for the general public. I do not think those safeguards exist at the present time. What I am asking the noble and learned Viscount now is to recognize that a monopoly creates a special situation for which special provision is necessary.
§ EARL HOWE
I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. I notice that he alludes to the Road Traffic Act of 193o, and the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933, but I do not think that such a Commission would quite complete its work unless it 914 also considered the Road and Rail Agreement which was arrived at just before the war, which I think was a most valuable circumstance. It would have altogether eliminated the cut-throat competition between road and rail which has existed. But the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, includes another word which is of great interest: it includes the word "cheap." We have heard a lot about the Transport Commission, and the old slogan of "Trust the People" seems now to be transformed into "Trust the Transport Commission." But if the service is to be cheap, what are the charges to be? What is to happen, as a result of the monopoly which is to be set up, to the charges which up to now have obtained in road transport? Are we to say that as a result of this monopoly the road charges as a whole shall go up? It would be a good thing if at some period during the discussion of this Bill the Government could give a forecast as to what is likely to happen to the charges to be levied under read transport.
Broadly speaking, I have a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, though I do not want to be tied down to it. I would certainly support it if the Government were inclined to accept it. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, when moving the Amendment, gave the whole thing away by saying that he would not press it to a Division arid would perhaps withdraw it if the Front Bench opposite looked unpleasantly at him.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am bound to say that I do look unpleasantly at this Amendment, though I never look unpleasantly at the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. I listen with great respect to everything he says. I do not want to duplicate the discussion we have already had; but we do feel—though I know the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has told us it is not, and he really believes it is not—that this is a wrecking Amendment, which would create a state of complete uncertainty for two years. And after that time who knows what the five people may decide? There may be three one way and two another, and then we should have to begin the arguments all over again. We cannot possibly accept this Amendment, but perhaps I may be allowed to say how greatly we appreciate the noble Lord's courtesy, and that 915 I have the greatest regard for all he says. I feel it is impossible for the High Court of Parliament to wash its hands of its duty, and to leave it to five good men and true to tell them what they have to do. I do not think that it is practicable or useful, and whether or not our solution is the right one, it seems, inevitably, to be a matter for Parliament to decide, and to decide here and now. I thank the noble Lord for what he has said, but I regret I cannot accept this Amendment.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
I think an explanation has already been given by the noble Earl who supported me. I am only sorry that in spite of the discussion I still cannot get out of the heads of His Majesty's Government this idea about "two years." It is perfectly clear you can have a report in six months: and less than that. This is no suggestion that Parliament should abrogate its function. My only suggestion is that Parliament should act in the light of serious examination and inquiry. There has been no inquiry of any sort or kind in this matter. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 40 [Notices of acquisition]:
Page 48, line 43, after ("notice") insert ("of acquisition").—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 8.55 p.m.
VISCOUNT SIMON moved, after subsection (5) to insert:
(6) In any proceeding under this section before the arbitration tribunal established under Part VIII of this Act the burden of proof that an undertaking is such an undertaking as is specified in the last preceding section shall be upon the person contending that the undertaking is such an undertaking.
The noble and learned Viscount said: This is a concrete and a definite point which will not require us to range over the broad principles of the Bill; but it is one to which I hope the Lord Chancellor, with his great knowledge of these matters, may feel sympathetic. If your Lordships look at Clause 39 as a whole you will see that it provides that certain road transport undertakings shall be
acquired by the Commission, and that others shall not.
§ There is, for example, the proviso beginning at line 29 which excludes certain classes of transport. In the same way, though it is not entirely to be found in Clause 39, it is not really enough to look at the definition of ordinary long distance carriage, because, as your Lordships know, before you decide whether that class of enterprise is to be forcibly expropriated and nationalized you have to apply the test in Clause 41. When that happens a dispute arises, a dispute between the Commission on the one side and the person who is to be acquired on the other. A notice of acquisition, as we have just said, is addressed to him, and he may be of opinion that he is not within the Acquisition clause. On the other hand, the Commission will say: "You are within the Acquisition clause," and when that happens, quite properly, the Bill provides that it shall be settled by the arbitration tribunal established under Part VIII. I think Part VIII is very reasonably drafted, and for my part I shall accept that as the proper tribunal.
§ The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, and I, and others, know perfectly well that whenever you have that sort of controversy before a. tribunal—it does not matter whether it is called an arbitration tribunal or whether it is a tribunal which is staffed by regular Judges—the question will arise: upon which side does the onus of proof lie? Have the Commission claiming compulsorily to acquire this undertaking to prove their case; or, on the other hand, has the party against whom the claim is made the burden of getting out of it if he can? It is a perfectly familiar issue and one which the Lord Chancellor has had to deal with a hundred times. I am not being critical of the Bill; I am simply explaining the point I want to urge. But it seems to me that it would be an advantage if the Bill contained a statement to that effect. I should not have thought that there was much doubt that the side which ought to prove its case is the claimant.
§ The general rule, of course—and the Lord Chancellor will confirm me immediately, because it is elementary to those of us who spend part of our life in the Law—is that the burden of proof lies in the party that affirms something. When the Commisssion say to you, as 917 such-and-such an undertaking "I say I am entitled to acquire you," I do not think it is open to much doubt that the proper rule there would be that the burden of proof would be on the Commission; it cannot be on the undertaking. There is one complication which I quite recognize, and which I would like my noble friend the Lord Chancellor to know I recognize. There is a complication which may arise under Clause 41 about which we have had a good deal of talk already. The question would be whether an enterprise which indulges in ordinary long distance carriage indulges in it to such an extent that under Clause 41 it can be compulsorily acquired by the Commission.
§ That depends, as your Lordships know, on deciding whether the predominant part of the enterprise, whether measured in the weight of goods carried or the receipts of the undertaking, is found to be in the individual excursions which themselves are ordinary long distance carriage. I think it is perfectly true that in many cases it will be difficult to prove that up to the hilt. I suspect, in spite of the Lord Chancellor's observations to the effect that a great deal of information would be got from the petrol returns, that there will be a great many cases in which it will not be possible to prove what is the total weight of goods carried, or to ascertain that more than half the receipts were earned in these long distance excursions. There might be cases in which it would be difficult to prove by examination of the books what were the total receipts, and therefore what 51 per cent. of the total receipts would be. It is not a question about the future, but about the past, because the test year is 1946.
It seems to me—and I hope the Lord Chancellor will agree with me—that the difficulty has been met, and very properly met, by the proviso on page 5o, which I do not suppose many of your Lordships have examined as yet, with any minuteness. I agree that in the circumstances it may be the best that can be done. But it is rather extraordinary. The passage in question on page 5o of the Bill reads:
Provided that if the information available"—
that is, as to the weight carried in 1946, or the revenue' earned—
in any such proceedings is insufficient to enable the tribunal to conclude either that one or other of the said conditions was satis-
fied as aforesaid or that neither of the conditions was so satisfied"—
In other words, suppose the tribunal flings up its hands and says: "We have not the material to decide this; what is the good of asking us to decide?" The proviso then goes on
the tribunal shall determine that the activities of the undertaking in the said year, so far as they consisted of the carriage of goods in goods vehicles in respect of which licences were in force"—
that is repeating the very phrase in Clause 39—
consisted to a predominant extent of ordinary long distance carriage for hire and reward.
In other words, that means if it appears to the tribunal from the information available that these activities ought in all circumstances properly to be regarded as having consisted to a predominant extent of such carriage.
§ I have never seen such a clause in my life before. I should think it is unique. But someone has tried to provide for this difficult case, and I am not going to quarrel with him. I understand it to mean that if the tribunal is left with information which is not complete, but which shows, let us say, that three-quarters of the figures are available, and the other quarter is missing, they may, in proper circumstances, be invited to draw an inference and to say: "In the cases we know about there is such a preponderance of long distance excursions that we will assume that that proves the whole case." I do not regard that as unfair. But I point out that the burden of proof, even then, ought to be on the Commission.
§ I will not say any more because I know the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, follows my point. But it would be a very grave departure from our ordinary rules, whether in criminal or civil matters, to say that when there is a defendant before some impartial tribunal it is for that person, in the position of the defendant or the accused, somehow to rebut the charge by his own evidence.
§ I do not say that there are no such cases. There is the case where a man is proved to be recently in receipt of stolen goods, where there is direct information that he knows something about the stealing. I cannot think it fair, when the Government are launching this scheme and say, "We are not anxious to acquire more than we 919 ought," to say the burden in this matter is on the person, and that unless he gets out of it he will be declared guilty and forcibly acquired under the terms of this Statute.
I submit to the noble and learned Viscount that this is a reasonable Amendment, one which will appeal not only to his practical sense but also to his legal sense, although I do not admit there is any difference between them. I think it is only fair you should provide what I dare say you intend all along to be given, that:
in any proceeding under this section before the arbitration tribunal established under Part VIII of this Act the burden of proof that an undertaking is such an undertaking as is specified in the last preceding section shall be on the person contending that the undertaking is such an undertaking.
It seems to me that is fundamentally fair, and what ordinary people would call British justice. I do not ask for anything more and I will not be content with anything less.
Page 49, line 27, at end insert the said subsection.—(Viscount Simon.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Viscount's statement of the legal position is, as I should have expected, completely accurate. It is important to remember that in any legal proceedings the onus of proof is on the person who asserts some fact. It means this: somebody asserts that a warranty has been broken and if, after hearing the evidence on both sides, the Judge is left with completely balanced evidence, he may say he is unable to say anything at all and has to consider on whom is the onus of proof, because the man on whom the onus lies has not satisfied that proof. On legal matters I am satisfied that it is very important that the Judge remembers on whom the onus of proof lies. In our legal system the onus of proof changes from time to time. It is, however, a very important factor for a judge to remember, and therefore if there were here an analogy with a legal case I should agree with the Amendment. But the question is: Is there anything here which is in any way analogous to legal proceedings? May I give an illustration? A man sells a picture, asserting and warranting that it is by Velasquez. The purchaser, having paid a large price for it, takes the picture home, looks at it and comes to the conclusion 920 it is not by Velasquez and thereupon brings an action. It would be for him to prove affirmatively that the picture is not by Velasquez.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Because his allegation is that the misrepresentation has been made, and he has to prove it.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There has been a breach of warranty and he has to prove it. I choose that particular artist, in whose works I myself am particularly interested, because I was asked recently to go to see a particular collection of pictures, a large number of which were ascribed to Velasquez and clearly signed with his name. It was perfectly obvious that a good many were not, although a number of them were, by that artist. I was asked to point out those that were, and those that were not, by Velasquez. If anybody had said to me, in those circumstances, there was any onus of proof on which I was to act, it might have given me some consolation in a difficult task. But it really would not have been to the point at all. It was ont a law suit; I was not claiming anything or asserting anything; I was simply given the task of trying to say which were and which were not by that particular artist.
Let me give another, more homely, illustration. If I told my shepherd to separate the sheep from the goats—I can conceive there may be some horned animals which may give rise to some difficulty—and my shepherd came to me and said, "On whom is the onus of proof?", I should think he had dined very well but not very wisely. That is not to the point. It is not a lawsuit. You have to do the hest you can to separate these two things. That is the analogy here. It is not that this Commission are claiming these things; they have no option. If we pass this Bill the law will say that these undertakings are to be divided into two, those which are predominantly long distance and those which are not predominantly long distance. The Commission have to take over the former, whether they like it or whether they do not like it, and the latter they cannot take over, whatever their views are. What you are performing here is a dichotomy, which you are called upon to perform by law, and I think the analogy of a lawsuit is completely out of place in these circumstances. It is not that the Commission are claiming things—
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is not that they are claiming things so much as that they are called upon by the operation of the law, if we pass this statute in this form, to take certain things.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend in the middle of a sentence. The sentence was that "the Commission are not claiming things." The first words of Clause 40 are: "A notice of acquisition given by the Commission." I find that the clause goes on to say that if the party on whom the notice of acquisition is served does not object, then the notice of acquisition means that the Commission do acquire the things. I have the greatest admiration for the noble and learned Viscount's power of dialectic, but is he seriously going to put himself on record as saying that the Commission are not giving a notice to acquire something, on the ground that it is within the Statute? Does anybody say that because an Act of Parliament has been passed which authorizes, let us say, the Postmaster-General to buy a particular thing or institution, that the notice is not, in effect, a notice claiming that the Postmaster-General is entitled to acquire it? The question is, in these circumstances, who is it who really has upon him, in case of doubt, the onus of proof? Will you forgive me if I give my illustration. I do apologize because I have not made myself quite plain.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I hope I have made myself quite plain, but in case I have not been understood by everybody I ought to call attention to the proviso that it shall not apply to ordinary furniture removers. Supposing there is a dispute and the Commission say that this is an undertaking for ordinary furniture removal, and the other party say it is not, what is that then? Is it a claim by the Commission before an impartial tribunal which they ought to establish and which ought not to be a thing which the other side should reject? I apologize very sincerely 922 to the Lord Chancellor for intervening, but I was not quite sure he appreciated the plainness.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Is it my turn now? I think it is. The noble and learned Viscount has completely missed the point. He gives the analogy of the Post Office being authorized to claim. The whole point here is that it is not a question of this Commission being authorized to do something; they are compelled to do something. If the noble Viscount will look at Clause 39 he will see that it says that if the Commission are of a certain opinion they are then bound to take certain steps. The law compels them to do it. They are bound then to serve the notice. It is true the noble Viscount calls it a notice of acquisition. It is not a voluntary act; it is not the ordinary case of a plaintiff in the Law Courts who starts his action. They are compelled by law to take these steps, and the first step they are compelled by law to take is to serve what is called a notice of acquisition. That is the reason why I say it is not a claim in the ordinary sense at all.
The law in Clause 39 makes them, in those circumstances, take the step indicated in Clause 40. It is quite true that if the person upon whom the notice is served thinks the notice is irregular he has a right to do certain things. But, to my mind, it is really not the analogy of a lawsuit, where you have a voluntary chaimant—a voluntary preferring of a claim—on whom the onus lies. The real underlying point is that the law says the Statute compels this Commission in certain events to take certain steps. The matter comes before the tribunal, and it is the function of the tribunal to separate what I call the sheep from. the goats—to separate those undertakings which are predominantly long distance from those undertakings which are not predominantly long distance. That being so, and for those reasons, I maintain that the analogy of a lawsuit—and I quite agree that if this was a lawsuit the noble Viscount would be right, and the onus of proof would be as he says—
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Not a bit. It does not matter whether it is an arbitration tribunal, or whether it is one of His Majesty's Judges; the principle is 923 exactly the same. If it is a voluntary suit by way of arbitration, or by way of being brought in the courts, then the doctrine of the onus of proof applies. That I would agree to. But my case is that it is not of that nature at all. Here certain facts are alleged. Clause 39 says to the Commission that if they believe those facts they are bound to serve a notice—there is no option. They may not want to serve it, but the law says they must serve it; and when they serve that notice of acquisition, then these various steps follow in Clause 40. That being so, I say that to apply the doctrine of the onus of proof is entirely wrong. It is as wrong as it would be for my shepherd, if he were still to separate the sheep and the goats, to try to make any use of the doctrine of the onus proof. That is a doctrine which applies to a law suit or an arbitration suit. It cannot apply, in my submission to your Lordships, where the various parties are taking steps throughout which they are compelled by the law of the land to take. I say that in those circumstances the doctrine of the onus of proof does not apply.
I say we have done the best we can in the proviso to Clause 41. I agree with the noble Viscount: I have never seen a counterpart to this before. But having read it carefully, I have come to the conclusion that it is as good as anybody could make it. The draftsman has tried to deal with this difficult problem. If the tribunal has not got all the circumstances and the figures to enable it to do what has been called "the Euclid," then it must do the best it can, getting such information as it can from petrol returns, from notepaper, and from the knowledge which in the vast majority of cases of these big firms is to be obtained from their customers, who are well known. The tribunal must get such evidence as it can, and draw an inference one way or the other as to which category this undertaking falls into. In those circumstances I say that this doctrine of the onus of proof is inappropriate and out of place, and it should not be put into this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
It may be a very rash layman who steps in between these two great protagonists of the law, but, after all, this is a Statute which, if passed, will affect every one of us in this country, and every layman is greatly in- 924 terested in the application of the law which may create a precedent. As I understand the noble and learned Viscount's argument—and I am now speaking as a layman with my rights as a citizen—the law lays down that something has to be done. If the law is passed it is my duty, as a citizen, to obey the law. It is the business of the Lord Chancellor or the Law Officer to see that I obey the law. If I fail to obey the law, then it is their duty to proceed against me (but not if we remember the Campbell case, which was a political matter) and it is their duty to see that the law is carried out.
Income Tax laws apart, it is the duty of everyone to pay his Income Tax. It is sometimes a little difficult to know what it is exactly we have to pay, but if we fail to pay it is the duty of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue to proceed against us. An obligation to comply with the law is clear, but the onus of proof is on the Commissioners and not on us. Let me take a simpler matter, which is within the knowledge of all of us. Let me take the most extreme case of the Criminal Law. It my duty not to murder my neighbour. If I do murder my neighbour, it is the duty of the police or the Public Prosecutor to prosecute me. But in that case the onus of proof for the greatest offence which can be committed is on the Public Prosecutor, who has to prove that I am guilty; it is not on me to prove that I am innocent.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
It seems to me that there was a very relevant point to which the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in his eloquent remarks, did not address himself. He drew that distinction to which my noble friend Viscount Swinton has been alluding—the difference between a trial and the machinery set up by this Bill. But I could not help asking myself: Why is it that in our legal system, and in all trials, the onus of proof lies where it does—that is to say, upon the prosecution? Why is it? It is surely becasue it is only in that way that justice can be done. If you act on the assumption that a man is guilty unless he proves himself to be innocent, experience teaches us that you may have the most horrible injustices. There is always a margin of cases which are difficult to prove, and in those cases the English principle is that it is better that the guilty should go free than that the 925 innocent should be wrongly punished. Therefore, the importance of the onus of proof lying where it does is that justice should be done to the individual.
It seems to me that the question whether this is a trial, in the sense which the noble arid learned Viscount has argued, is really quite irrelevant to the man who is threatened with the confiscation of his transport business. Take the case of a haulier who is, let us say, a borderline case. That man sees that this Bill, if it becomes an Act, will threaten him with ruin: it will put him out of business. He is threatened with the loss of his whole livelihood, and he maintains that he does not come into the category which is to be confiscated, but the Commission, interpreting the Act, are of opinion that his business does come into that category. Surely elementary Justice demands that in such a case the burden of proof should be on the Commission. I really cannot follow the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, when he says this not a trial. The man is on trial for his livelihood. He is in fact being accused by the Commission—the Commission may be genuinely mistaken—of having carried on a form of livelihood which in future is to be illegal for private enterprise; therefore he is threatened with the whole loss of his livelihood.
Are you going to tell me that a man in that position will not regard himself as being on trial? Of course he will, and he will expect justice and that the ordinary rules of the law courts should apply in his case. Those rules have been adopted only by experience through a process of trial and error. British justice is famous throughout the world because we have hit on a system which does prevent the gross injustices and wrongs that have been and are committed in foreign countries. If we depart from. the principles of British justice in inquiries of this sort, grave injustices are bound to follow. It is an irrelevant question whether it is a "claim" or a "trial." You ought to prove your facts before you take away a man's livelihood. A man should never be put in the position of having to prove that he does not come into a category, because it is very difficult to prove a negative. The onus of proof must lie on the Commission who say that this man comes within the Act. Unless we so provide it seems to me that grave injustice is bound to occur.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
I have been startled out of a studiously observed silence by some of the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in response to the Amendment moved by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon. It seems to me that this is a matter of very considerable importance and that, with all respect, the noble and learned Viscount cannot shelter behind Velasquez, or ride away either on a sheep or a goat. I do not follow the argument that since this is a matter in which there is an element of compulsion as to the decision which has to be arrived at, therefore it should not be regarded in any way as a legal tribunal. I was going to make exactly the point that the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, had just made, that the whole livelihood of a man may be affected by this decision.
I am not particularly interested in whether or not it is a formal legal proceeding. What I am interested in is that when a man's livelihood is threatened not only shall justice be done to him but he shall feel that justice is being done to him. I think a considerable case could be made out for saying that this was something very much more in the nature of a formal legal proceeding than the noble and learned Viscount has tried to argue. That is not my point. My point is that when you affirm something in any proceeding of this kind, whether it be a formal hearing before a judge, whether it be an arbitration, or whether it he a special tribunal of this sort, the doctrine that is embodied in this Amendment is:he doctrine which should govern every tribunal of that kind; and the doctrine of the burden of proof of a fact being upon the man who asserts it is not only fair because it is a part of the law; it is a part of the law because it is fair.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
I have long thought that the Lord Chancellor (and he is not the first on the Woolsack of whom I have thought this) was open to the charge on which Socrates was convicted—namely, of making the worse appear the better reason. I speak as a layman, and may I ask him what exactly will happen before the arbitration tribunal? I presume that someone would say: "A copy of a notice of acquisition has been served on Messrs. So-and-so, and I ask you to confirm this notice," and then he will 927 have to state his case. Whether the proceedings begin with a representative of the Commission, or with the company in question, surely, in fact and in justice, there is a case for someone who is rebutting the claim. As my noble friend on my left has said, here is a threat to seize a business. It may be that the threat has to be made under the Act, just as a prosecution has to be started under the Criminal Law, but none the less, whether you call the Commission the plaintiff and the company the defendant, or whether you call the Commission the claimant, the fact is that one wishes to take something away from the other, which will do him grievous harm. I suggest, as a layman, that the ordinary rule of law, whatever may be the possible practice of the tribunal, should prevail in this case as a matter of justice.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I may answer the noble Lord, I am grateful for being likened to Socrates and I should like to answer his very clear questions—
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
May I say that I do not propose to bring in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act to deal with this particular offence?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the noble Lord will look at Clause 39, he will find that the test as to whether or not the Commission have to serve a notice is not factual but is subjective, that is to say: "If the Commission are of opinion." That is the test there. Afterwards you get to something different. So long as, under Clause 39, the Commission are of opinion in regard to a certain matter, they then have to serve a notice. It is inaccurate to say that they are asserting anything. If they are asserting anything they are asserting that they have an opinion. It is certainly the fact, as the noble Lord will see quite plainly, that Clause 39 starts off in this way: "Where the Commission are of opinion with respect to an undertaking"—
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
If I may interrupt, it seemed to me that it would make no difference to the unfortunate man who was put in jeopardy whether the Commission asserted it as their opinion, 0r asserted it was a fact.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We must look rather carefully at that because the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, said "a man who is asserting something." All the Commission assert, when they give a notice which the law requires them to do, is that they have a certain opinion. Now I come to Lord Rankeillour's question. Let us see what happens when that notice has been served, and which the noble Lord will realize the Commission are bound to serve if they have this opinion. Clause 40, subsection (2), says:If a person on whom a notice has been served by the Commission with respect to an undertaking desires to contend that the undertaking is not such an undertaking as is specified in the last preceding section he may by notice in writing served on the Commission required the Commission to withdraw their notice.The Commission, if of a certain opinion, are bound to serve notice. The gentleman on whom notice is served, if he desires to contend that the undertaking is not such an undertaking as is specified in the section referred to, then serves notice on the Commission requiring the Commission to withdraw their notice. Here we are factual and not subjective. I say that proceedings resulting from this, brought before the tribunal in these circumstances, are not in any way analogous to proceedings in the courts of law. What is being done is that the Commission are told by the Statute to divide their undertakings as best they can into two sections, those which are and those which are not predominantly long distance carriage. To apply the analogy of a law suit in this connexion, therefore, is to apply an analogy which in the circumstances is not applicable.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
May I ask this question under Clause 40 (2). Notice having been served on a company, or an individual, and the latter having served notice in writing requiring the Commission to withdraw their notice, is not the onus then on the Commission, when they appear before the tribunal, to give reasons and to prove why they should not withdraw their notice?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not going to assert on whom onus of proof lies. I simply say that there is no onus of proof in the ordinary sense at all. The tribunal is told to say whether or not any undertaking which is brought before it falls in one or the other category.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I follow what the noble and learned Viscount says. I want to express myself in most moderate terms, but I am bound to say that his statement astonishes me. Let us start at the other end. The tribunal is intended in the end to make the decision, to say about a particular undertaking whether it does fall within the compulsory acquisitions of the Act or not. That will be agreed. Therefore the position is this, and if you turn to Clause 52 you will see it very clearly—that a man may believe and claim that he is not within the compulsory clauses, but if the decision of the tribunal is against him, he may no longer carry in his vehicles for hire or reward what he has hitherto carried. The effect of the decision (and nobody put it more clearly than the noble Earl), if adverse to the man, is that he loses any right to carry on what has previously been his business. Though I have not checked it, I do not feel the least doubt that it is a penal offence if he carries on for hire or reward after the award has been made against him. With great respect to my noble friend, I really do not understand him when he says there is no onus of proof here. I do not know what it means. Someone has got to begin. Does anyone suggest that it is not the Attorney-General who will begin? Does anyone suggest that the Government would get up in these disputed cases and say: "This is a disputed case; therefore the haulier should begin"? It is, with great respect, inconceivable and nearly absurd. Of course the party who represents the Crown on this Commission will get up and say the Commission are right here and the undertaker is wrong. Certainly under subsection (3) of Clause 4o the Commission will proceed before the tribunal only if, after they have been challenged, they are satisfied that they ought to go on. I have tried to speak with moderation. I cannot understand how in such circumstances anybody can doubt—though obviously a very great authority doubts; therefore I have tried
§ to speak with becoming modesty—that when the issue is whether a man shall lose his business or not and when he says he ought not to lose it because it is not within these compulsory words, it cannot possibly be right to say, "You say that—prove it."
§ Surely there are compulsory acquisitions—with great respect to my noble and learned friend, knowing how careful and subtle he is—which have nothing to do with the point. This is not a compulsory power to acquire everything, it is only a power to acquire certain things. If an undertaker says "My business is not one of the things you have any power to acquire," it must be for the person who asserts that there is compulsory power to take away from him his livelihood and leave him with any compensation he gets, to proceed to prove it. I put it that way without tearing the argument to tatters because I feel the noble and learned Viscount would like to reflect on this. We are sincere about this and are not trying to score over anybody.
§ How can the Commission, which have the compulsory duty to take only certain articles which come within a certain division, be entitled in a dispute with an undertaker about a doubtful article, to say, "You prove to me it is not on my authorized list?" How can that be so? I cannot see any analogy in common sense. It is always the person who has the right and duty to take something from somebody else who has to prove it.
§ This must be considered most carefully. I do not know the feeling on this side, but for my part I feel sure this is the right way to deal with it. I am not disposed to be persuaded by the argument of the noble and learned Viscount as I often am.
§ On Ouestion, Whether the said words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 78; Not-Contents, 18.931
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Radnor, E.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Rothes, E.|
|Reading, M.||Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Scarbrough, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Grey, E.||Selborne, E.|
|Willingdon, M.||Howe, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Lucan, E.|
|Beatty, E.||Manvers, E.||Chaplin, V.|
|Craven, E.||Munster, E.||Falmouth.|
|De La Warr, E.||Onslow, E.||Hailsham, V.|
|Harcourt, V.||Cawley, L.||Llewellin, L.|
|Long, V.||Courthope, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Monsell, V.||Craigmyle, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Simon, V.||Cromwell, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Swinton, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Milford, L.|
|Templewood, V.||Denham, L.||O' Hagan, L.|
|Wimborne, V.||Deramore, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Rea, L.|
|Truro, L. Bp.||Fairhe, L. (L. Glasgow.)||Remnant, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Rennell, L.|
|Addington, L.||Gifford, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Grenfell, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Hacking, L.||Savile, L.|
|Beveridge, L.||Hampton, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Broadbridge, L.||Hatherton, L. [Teller,]||Soulbury, L.|
|Butler of Mount Juliet, L. (E. Carrick.)||Hawke, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Howard of Glossop, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Kenilworth, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Henderson, L.||Piercy, L.|
|Holden, L.||Quibell, L.|
|Addison, V.||Kershaw, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Hall, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Marley, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Morrison, L. [Teller.]||Walkden, L. [Teller.]|
|Darwen, L.||Nathan, L.|
On Question, Amendments agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 40, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 41:
§ Tests as to whether ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward predominates.
§ 41.—(1) For the purposes of any proceedings under the last preceding section before the arbitration tribunal established under Part VIII of this Act, the activities of an undertaking in the year nineteen hundred and forty-six, so far as they consisted in the carriage of goods in goods vehicles with respect to which A licences, B licences or C licences were in force, shall be deemed to have consisted to a predominant extent of ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward if, and, save as is hereinafter provided in this subsection, only if, one or other of the following conditions was satisfied as respects the undertaking in that year, that is to say—
- (a) the total weight of the goods which were the subject of ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward in the said goods vehicles exceeded half the total weight of all the goods carried in those vehicles; or
- (b) the receipts of the undertaking from ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward exceeded half the total value to the undertaking of the services of the vehicles.
§ VISCOUNT LONG moved, in subsection (1) to leave out "one or other of the following conditions," and insert "the following conditions."
§ The noble Lord said: I rise to move the Amendment that stands in my name on the Order Paper. If, as I believe is the fact, His Majesty's Government are only concerned with the nationalization of long distance transport then I hope and trust 932 that they will look upon this Amendment with favour and grant it. The reason is a simple one. There may be an operator who has a small number of vehicles employed on long distance journeys and earning an approximate sum, we will say, of £3 a ton per journey, as against a larger number of small haulage vehicles earning at the rate of 10s. a ton. Now it is quite possible that the long distance receipts will be greater than the short distance receipts, in which case the short distance hauls will be taken in. Therefore, in moving this Amendment, I trust that as His Majesty's Government are concerned only with long distance transport they will consider giving this concession and accepting this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 49, line 36, leave out ("one or other of the follwing conditions") and insert ("the following conditions").—(Viscount Long.)
§ LORD NATHAN
As the noble and learned Viscount pointed out in the discussion on the last Amendment, Clause 41 prescribes alternatives for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the undertaking sought to be acquired is an undertaking which is deemed to be long distance. I am using the term "long distance" in the sense in which I think we all understand it, without the refinements attached to that phrase. There are alternatives as expressed in the clause, but the noble Viscount's Amendment would make them cumulative. In other words, instead 933 of looking at each of the two criteria, and deciding that if the undertaking fell within one of them it was a long distance undertaking, the noble Viscount would desire that the undertaking should answer both these criteria regarded cumulatively.
Now I cannot accept that Amendment, because it would gravely diminish the area over which the Bill would prevail. It would also not give a fair and proper reflection on what is indeed a predominantly long distance undertaking. It might well be that if you have a short distance run taking place on numerous occasions during a limited period of time, the tonnage would be a great deal more than the tonnage that would be carried by the same vehicles in one long distance journey of, say, 150 miles. If the weight criterion Were the only one to be applied, what was in fact a long distance undertaking might not come within the provisions of this Bill, whereas, on the other hand, the charges made, the earnings of the undertaking in respect of its long distance work, might be much greater, as they often are, than the aggregate of the takings under all other heads. It is, in the opinion of the Government, essential for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements of the section that these alternative conditions should prevail as separate criteria, and we could not agree to their being cumulative. I am therefore unable to accept this Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Then why is the noble Lord replying to the first? I shall have a good deal to say about the second. The noble Viscount moved the first Amendment, and indeed it would have been quite out of order if he had moved two Amendments at the same moment. We have had a general discussion, but the noble Lord's reply was entirely on the subject that you must not make the conditions disjunctive, you must make them conjunctive. That is the only issue that is being decided now, because if we accept—and I am not unwilling to accept—the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has advanced, that both these conditions should be taken together and that the Commission can convict—
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The Commission is going to do it first of all. We have decided that the man is to have a fair trial and it will come before a tribunal. But he can be charged with one of two Acts, and if he falls down under either, his business will be confiscated. I accept that. But that is the first Amendment. If we accept it, it will become extremely important to see that the second count on which the man can be convicted, is a fair one. I am not going to argue the case of one-half or three-quarters now. I do not know whether my noble friend would be prepared to withdraw or have negatived his first Amendment, and then we could get on with the next.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ VISCOUNT LONG moved in subsection (1) (b) to leave out "half" and insert "three-quarters". The noble Lord said: I can only say in regard to my second Amendment, that I hope that after the words I said previously His Majesty's Government may see fit, in order to adhere to their statement that they are anxious to take over only long distance transport, to insert "three-quarters" in place of "half", which will mean that they will not be taking over all the short-distance hauliers.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The whole of the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, advanced in resisting a first Amendment we may pray in aid in inviting him to support this. The test here is as to what is long distance; and it is only long distance, so we are assured, that is to be taken over, and which competes with the railways. As I understand it, it is not a scramble to get by hook or by crook as much as you can. It is a genuine decision that only what is predominantly long distance transport shall be taken over. That Bill says that if the bulk of the business that a man undertakes is long distance haulage, that is his normal business. Let us take two rather simple analogies in regard to that. A man may make an occasional excursion for which he can get a great deal of money, but it does not mean that that is the rough and tumble of his business.
The noble Lord, Lore Nathan, is an eminent solicitor. No doubt he collects 935 a great many six and eightpences or even thirteen and fourpences with a cost of living bonus added, but every now and again he gets a client who wants special attention and who is willing to give a special consideration, and he gets a fat fee. But that does not alter the fact that the bulk of his work is ordinary business, and it would not suddenly put him into the unique position of being taxed as if every fee he got was a thousand guineas and not thirteen shillings and fourpence. It may be that some of us are churchgoers. We may make a habit of going to church. But to say that a man who never went to church ordinarily, but who suddenly had a fit of repentance and thought he had better spend twenty-four hours in church was an habitual churchgoer would be an exaggeration; indeed it would be a misstatement of fact. We are dealing with this on a common sense basis, and the question is: Is the man's ordinary business that of a long distance haulier or a short distance haulier?
I should have thought that the fair test would be the one which has been rejected by the Government—namely, to take the tonnage the man carries and find if the bulk of it is for long or short distances. If the answer is that the bulk of it is long distance, then the man is a long distance haulier. If the bulk of it is short distance then he is a short distance haulier. That is common sense and appeals to most of us ordinary rather commonplace business people. But to that we are invited to add a refinement. We are invited to look at his banking account and see how much money he makes upon it, We ought not to do that and, by a side wind or by an advantageous claim, to bring him into the long distance category because he is an occasional long distance haulier, although of course he may get paid more for a long distance haul. If you take a taxi to-morrow to Ascot of course you pay more than if you get a taxi from your lodging down to this House, and naturally the taxi driver will make a fiver, or whatever it is, out of it. That does not convert the taxi driver into a long distance passenger carrier. He remains a taxi driver, but of course he gets paid a great deal more.
If you are going to weight this thing at all—and this is a new phrase which has been introduced in recent years; that you 936 have to have weighted figures—do weight your figures fairly. It is not fair to say to a man who, on his tonnage, is predominantly a short haul man, and would have his case absolutely established for short haul on his tonnage, that he is to be brought in because he does an occasional journey of, it may be, 300 or 400 miles carrying some special load for which he gets a special rate. It may be that he carries something specially valuable, such as the Lord Chancellor's Velasquez, which, of course, would be carried at a specially high rate. Because he has this weighty item in his account and may be a few others like it which make up the balance of his receipts for these long journeys to 50 per cent. of his total, you are going to claw him in. In common sense, he is not a long distance man at all; he is predominantly a short distance haulier.
Therefore we say that if you want to bring in a cash test as well as a tannage test, then bring in a cash test which is honest and fair. The basis of fifty-fifty while it may be honest in tonnage is certainly not honest as applied to cash in this connexion. Bring in a test which will show whether or not he is predominantly a long distance haulier. We agree that a man ought to be treated as a long distance haulier if it is proved beyond all doubt that the greater part of his work is long distance haulage. But I am sure that a fifty-fifty test applied in the case of cash is not fair. We have put down the figure of seventy-five—it seems to us pretty fair—an the cash side. If the noble Lord says that that seems a little too generous to him, and he likes to say instead two-thirds on the one side and one-third on the other, then I think that we could do business with him. But I am sure the noble Lord is not being fair in trying to catch a man out with a fifty-fifty test on the cash.
Is not the criterion of receipts as sought to be applied here in this Bill manifestly absurd? To elaborate the point which the noble Viscount who has just sat down has made, take the example of a concern which has ten lorries, two of which run between London and Edinburgh carrying high-class freight, and eight of which run between London and Esher or London and Guildford carrying sand or gravel from the river for the building trade. Is it any basis of 937 comparison to take the gross receipts between the two sections of the business; that is, the two lorries running between London and Edinburgh and the eight that run short distances carrying sand and gravel? It would be a monstrous and absurd basis of justification for taking that business over as a long distance haulage business. I think you would have to go far in this Bill to find anything similar.
§ LORD NATHAN
The noble Viscount opposite proceeded, I think, upon the basis that the calculation that has to be made is a calculation between the receipts for long haul and the receipts for short haul, but that would be a misapprehension. If the noble Viscount will look at Clause 41 (1) on page 49 he will see that the sum that has to be done is to calculate the receipts from ordinary long distance carriage for hire or reward on the one hand and the total value to the undertakings of the services of the vehicles on the other hand, which is far more than short hauls. In other words the calculation that has to be made is between long distance traffic on the one hand and on the other hand the aggregate of the receipts from the excluded traffic—that means, excluded under the proviso of Clause 39 (2); short distance traffic and traffic carried otherwise than for hire or reward; for instance, traffic under "C" licences. Perhaps it will help if I refer the noble Viscount to subsection (5) of Clause 41 at the bottom of page 50, which prescribes that for the purposes of this subsection the total value to an undertaking of the services of its vehicles shall be ascertained by adding together, first, the receipts of the undertaking in respect of carriage for hire or reward in its vehicles, and secondly, a sum in respect of goods carried therein other than for hire or reward.
Is the noble Lord taking both cases in subsection (5) as gross receipts or net receipts?
§ LORD NATHAN
In subsection (5) it means gross receipts. Let me give a practical example. Assume that on long 938 distance traffic an undertaking has £1,500 of receipts. Now you will have to see what else it has done. Let us assume it has had a certain volume of excluded traffic that comes under Clause 39 (2) and let me attribute £800 to that.
§ LORD NATHAN
Traffic under Clause 39 (2) which we spent a great deal of time earlier in the day discussing.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
We do not want to take the exceptional case of a man who has some excluded vehicles, who has some kind of tank wagon for carrying milk or the fellow who makes something on the side under some clause. I do not know how you make money on the side. I want to take the ordinary straightforward case of a man who has no exempted traffic but has an ordinary business and makes his money in the way in which the bulk of "A" and "B" licence holders make their money, which is carrying goods in their own vehicles for hire or reward, some parts of it beyond 40 miles, and some within 40 miles. I wish the noble Lord would address himself to that ordinary case of a typical man and we can come to the refinements after.
§ LORD NATHAN
It is not a question of refinement, but of the plain meaning of the provision in the The Bill provides that you take on the one hand the receipts on long distance traffic, and on the other hand all the other receipts of the same undertaking, whether for hire or reward or not. Any purpose other than long distance traffic for which the vehicle is used is taken into account in calculating whether or not my hypothetical £1,500 is 5o per cent. of the total as arrived at in compliance with the provision of subsection (5) of Clause I should have thought it was perfectly simple. You take what business has been done and divide it into two parts: long distance traffic, and all other kinds of traffic. And then you say, "Is the long distance traffic greater or less than 50 per cent?"
§ VISCOUNT LONG
May I ask the noble Lord what he means by "other kinds of traffic? As I see it, being a haulier myself, there is long distance traffic and 939 short distance traffic, and I cannot see what the noble Lord means by other kinds. I am trying to follow him in his argument.
§ LORD NATHAN
If the noble Lord will refer to subsection (5) he will find it set out there with some precision.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
With great respect, the noble Lord does not answer my question. It is quite simple. There is long distance traffic and short distance traffic, but the noble Lord says there are two or three kinds of short distance.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think I do, after very great difficulty, understand paragraph (b) of subsection (5) of Clause 41. But that applies to cases where there are a certain number of vehicles plying for hire or reward and a certain number of vehicles which are not plying for hire or reward. It may be in those particular cases that the vehicles which are not plying for hire or reward will weight the scales in the direction of excluding the undertaker from the scheme. But those are only a small proportion of the total number of undertakings. The great majority, I take it, are people who ply merely for hire or reward, and we contend that 5o per cent: is not enough. You can get a man who might take 100 short journeys for which he received £5 a journey, and this would bring him in £500, and he might take six long journeys for which he received £100 a journey, making a total of £600. On that basis he would be calculated as a long distance haulier, yet he would have done too short journeys and only six long journeys. We do not think that that is fair. What makes it worse is that this is all upon a basis of one year's trading. There might be a number of cases in which that particular year was 940 an exceptional year for the undertaking, and on this basis of calculation the undertaking may be drawn into the category of long distance hauliers when normally he was a short distance man. For that reason we prefer, in order that he shall not be subject to any unfairness, that the proportion should be made three-quarters rather than half.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
Would the noble Lord allow me to give my reasons for thinking that this Amendment, or something on the lines of this Amendment, would be a definite improvement to the Bill? While thanking the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, for his account of the provisions of the Bill, I had, by my own unaided intelligence, arrived at the same conclusion about it. The point to which I want to address myself is whether this proposal, as it stands, and as I think I understand it, is a good one from the point of view of the operation of the Bill. The operation of the Bill, broadly, is that the Traffic Commission are to do the long distance road haulage and the short distance haulage is to be left in private hands. They cannot divide it completely, but they do, in fact, keep private industry completely out of long distance traffic, except for the excepted things. They give them a 25 miles' circle or a 50 miles' circle, as the case may be, but they retain the right to run short distance traffic.
I suggest it would be in accord with the policy of the Bill if they did not try to do too much short distance traffic. They should concentrate upon long distance, and from that point of view it would be an inconvenience to them to take over a large number of undertakings which are substantially short distance undertakings. The simple calculation that has been made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition shows that if you apply to receipts the same proportion of half which you apply to tonnage, just because the longer journey gets you more money you will tend to take over people whom, in accordance with the policy of the Bill, you should not take over. I do suggest that some higher percentage than half should be considered, whether it be two-thirds, three-quarters, or whatever is thought to be appropriate.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
May I point out one thing? Of course the weight of a load is not automatically increased because it 941 travels a longer distance. What it weighs at the end of a journey will be the same as what it weighs at the beginning of the journey; and if it goes a long journey the weight will be whatever it is throughout. Quite a different situation arises as regards receipts, because in the case of receipts if you go a short journey you will not receive much, but if you go a long journey you will receive more. To treat these two things as though they were parallel is quite wrong. I have had no difficulty whatever in understanding what the Bill says, and I am gratified to find that my own unaided instinct led me to exactly what the noble Lord was good enough to explain at some length. The question is not what the Bill means, but whether the Bill, as it stands, is great nonsense.
Take the case of a man who carries goods beyond the Euclidian limit five times in a year, and earns £100 each time, and carries goods within that charmed circle one hundred times and ach time earns, let us say, £6. To earn £6 in one hundred journeys gives him £600, and to earn £100 in five long journeys gives him £500; and added together they come to £100. It is easy to see that with a slight alteration of those figures you will satisfy paragraph (b) and call a man a long distance man because he has gone in for a few long distance journeys. But he may have gone in for an enormous number of short distance journeys. It would be ridiculous to describe him as engaged to a predominant extent in long distance carriage. The difference is that the weight remains the same, no matter what the length the journey, but the receipts do not. The threepences go up all the time as the taxi goes along.
§ LORD NATHAN
I have listened with great care to what has been said by noble Lords. I think we are all anxious to get on with the Bill as fast as we can. I would say this to the noble Viscount opposite. I will certainly, in the light of the discussion which has taken place, bring this matter to the notice of my right honourable friend for his consideration. But when I say that, I must not, of course, be assumed to be giving any undertaking as to what the outcome of that consideration might be.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We do not want to press this matter to a Division unnecessarily. We feel this more be- 942 cause we think we have had so much the best of the argument on this particular Amendment that the Government are bound to give it serious consideration, Therefore, I am very ready to accept the noble Lord's offer; and we, of course, for our part, must reserve the right to put the Amendment down again on the Report stage if we cannot come to any agreed solution in the meantime.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 41 agreed to.
§ Clauses 42 to 45 agreed to.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Clause 46 [Disclaimer of property and contracts]:
VISCOUNT SIMON moved, after subsection (6) to insert:
(7) Where notice is so given by the Commission disclaiming the acquisition of a property or the making or variation of a contract any question which arisen between the Commission and the transferor as to whether the acquisition of the property or the making or variation of the contract was reasonably necessary or was an act of unreasonable imprudence shall in default of agreement be referred to and determined by the Arbitration Tribunal established under Part VIII of this Act.
The noble Viscount said: I beg to move my Amendment at the end of Clause 46, which deals with the disclaimer of property and contracts. As the Bill stands—I think possibly by accident—the matter is left solely to the ipse dixit of the Commission. If the Commission choose to say that under this clause a particular property is a property which has been acquired by unreasonable imprudence, or the agreement is one which they ought reasonably to modify, the agreement goes. Nobody can challenge their decision. They become, in fact, a totalitarian institution.
§ I cannot see any reason why, if there is a difference of opinion between the Commission and the party who will suffer if the Commission arrive at this conclusion, the matter should not be dealt with by the tribunal already set up. The tribunal has been created for the very purpose of reconciling differences. It is there, and it is not newly suggested by this clause. Here is a case in which there may, and often will, be acute difference of opinion. The Commission may say: 943 "We say that that was not reasonably necessary for the purpose of the undertaking." The party concerned may say: "If you listen to us, we will assure you that there was very good reason. We are surely not entitled to have this put upon us without the chance of explaining and having a decision as to who is right." I do not think my noble friend will dispute that as the clause stands it gives the Commission an absolute and final power which Hitler himself could not improve upon. They say, "We say it is so, and therefore it is so." If it is a matter of dispute between the two parties concerned, ought it not, in this country, under any Government, to be a matter for decision by the arbitration tribunal which has been set up for the very purpose of securing fair play all round? I beg to move.
Page 57, line 45, insert the new said subsection.—(Viscount Simon.)
§ LORD NATHAN
I have listened with great care to what has been said by the noble and learned Viscount, and I must confess that, in principle, I find myself in agreement with him. If the noble and learned Viscount will be good enough to refer to Clause io8 (i) (c) of the Bill at page 115, he will see that the point he makes is met, and the precise provision which he desires to have included is already in the Bill. VISCOUNT SIMON: I had not omitted to observe Clause 108 (i) (c), and I will say a supplementary word about that. But first let me register, beyond all possibility of doubt, that the Government agree with me in my criticism if we have to look at Clause 46 (2) alone. The Government agree that it is wrong that that should be left to the undisputed and dictatorial decision of the tribunal. Now let us see whether Clause 108 (1) (c) deals with the same matter. Subsection (1) begins:Subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act, the arbitration tribunal shall have sole jurisdiction to determine any dispute …and in paragraph (c) it says:whether a notice of disclaimer given by the Commission under any of the provisions of this Act with respect to any property or any contract or agreement is or is not valid;"—Note the word "valid." That means whether it has been given in proper form, whether at the proper time, and whether 944 it has been served on the other party. As long as you have Clause 46 (2) as it stands, there is no question of the Commission's notice being valid; and with respect, the question whether or not notice of disclaimer is valid is quite a different question from the question whether or not a contract was or was not reasonably necessary. That is perfectly obvious. I knew the answer was supposed to be in Clause 108 (i) (c) but I was so sure it was not that I did not think it worth while to refer to it.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
Clause 108 (1) (c) was quoted with regard to Clause 15, and not with regard to Clause 46, and I submit that it applies to the provisions of Clause 15 and not to those of the clause we are now on.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
In view of what the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, has said, would not the Government be well advised to accept this Amendment, and to insert it in the Bill as it now stands, on the understanding that the Amendment can be varied at a subsequent stage if the Government see a better way to giving effect to what is now by general consent the common aim of His Majesty's Government and His Majesty's Opposition? The question that may arise between the transferor and the Commission is one which in the absence of agreement between them ought to be settled by some impartial tribunal. My noble and learned friend has proposed an Amendment which completely covers that. The noble Lord, speaking on behalf of the Government, has said that the answer is in Clause 108 (1) (c). For the life of me I cannot see that Clause 108 (1) (c) touches the point at all, but since both sides are in agreement that this point ought to be determined by an impartial tribunal, I hope very much that the Leader of the House will agree that this Amendment should be accepted.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
No doubt Clause 108 (i) (c) has applications. But what it has application to are, I suggest, the words in Clause 46 (2) beginning at line 31:given to the transferor before the expiration of the period hereafter mentioned …If these conditions are not satisfied notice of disclaimer is not valid. As the Bill is now drawn, the arbitrator or the tribunal has the right to decide on that question—the question whether the Commission, 945 going through all the proper forms, are to have the final voice without any challenge.
§ LORD NATHAN
I think the noble and learned Viscount is directing his attention to subsection (2) of Clause 46. The Commission, as I understand the position, can act under that subsection only by giving notice of disclaimer; and the validity or otherwise of a notice of disclaimer is a matter covered by Clause 108. Let me say to the noble and learned Viscount that I am advised that the position which he seeks to cover by his Amendment is completely covered by Clause 108. The noble and learned Viscount expressed some doubt about that; let me assure him that it is our intention that the point he makes shall be covered; and if I cannot satisfy him between now and the Report stage that it is so covered then words will be inserted which will cover it. It is intended that the point shall be covered.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
I think at this hour, and in this friendly atmosphere I had better accept that. I can only express a slight surprise—but I accept it, of course—that those advising the noble Lord opposite should tell him that the question of whether a notice is valid is the same as the question of whether the Commission have a final right, without reference to anybody else, to decide that an act is of unreasonable imprudence. I must accept it as at present given, but perhaps the noble Lord will take the opportunity of looking at it further.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I think it is better to insert the Amendment. A great deal is being left to the Report stage, and when a matter is down on Report all the argument conies up again. We have had a great deal of authority to-night in regard to this. Would it not be better to put this Amendment in now and to vary it if necessary on Report? We will do whatever the Government like, but I would have thought, in that connexion, that it would be easier to put this in now and then have the lawyers look at it and see if they want to modify it; but we do riot mind discussing it again.
§ LORD NATHAN
I think no delay would be occasioned by letting it stand over because I have already said I will confer with the noble and learned Viscount in regard to it.
§ On Ouestion, Whether the Clause shall stand part of the Bill?:
THE EARL OF SELLORNE
Before the House agrees to Clause 46 standing part of the Bill I should like to ask His Majesty's Government a question on one point in the opening words of this clause which compels the transferor to give notice within seven days of all the transactions with which this clause deals. I want to ask whether that point was considered in another place, and whether the Government have given sufficient consideration to it. It seems to me to be a very short space of time indeed. It seems to me that the transactions referred to may cover a multitude of small and great matters. I think I am right in saying that they cover the engagement of every employee by the transferor since the date; indeed, I think it was said, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, that one of the objects of this clause and Clause 15 was to prevent a transferor engaging people at exorbitant salaries after he knew that his business was to be acquired.
The point I am making is that the transferor who is in any way of business may have to give notice to the Commission of a whole multitude of transactions—the engagement of every employee who has been employed since that date would be only one of them—and of every other bit of business that has taken place between the date of November, 1945 and the date of acquisition; that is over a period of more than two years. That may be a very big schedule. Is it reasonable to require that that man should hand all that in within seven days? I take it that if he does not do it within seven days, or if he leaves out any transaction from the list, then he will be at fault, and may suffer severe penalties under the Bill. I would like to ask His Majesty's Government whether they attach any particular importance to the period of seven days, and whether they do not think it would be reasonable to make it a period of say two or three weeks.
§ LORD NATHAN
The point raised by the noble Earl has not been brought to 947 my attention before, and I consider it now, on the spur of the moment, as a point which is entirely novel to me. The noble Earl will realize that this only relates to property acquired, and contracts entered into, after November, 1945, a period of about two years. The reason that date has been taken is that it was the date when the Lord President of the Council, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, announced that there would be this scheme of nationalization. Those likely to be affected have had notice as to what might happen and it has behoved them to be careful as to the transactions into which they entered. The noble Earl will also observe that it does not apply to property and contracts which the Commission may exclude, either generally or in any particular case. I do not think that in practice it will be found—nor is it intended that it should be—as onerous as the noble Earl seems to anticipate. Here, again, I do not think His Majesty's Government feel that there is any particular magic about seven days and I will certainly have consultations on this point and see whether something can be agreed.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I merely wanted him to consider this matter, because it does seem that in some of these cases, especially in those borderline cases where a man does not know whether his business is to be transferred or not, a man may have to give a list of transactions and the employees engaged over a period of two years, and seven days does not seem to be adequate for that purpose.
Clause 46 agreed to.
§ Clause 47 [Amount of Compensation]:
§ LORD NATHAN
moved, in subsection (1) (a), at the beginning to insert: "in the case of a vehicle registered under the Roads Act, 1920."
The noble Lord said: This Amendment is linked with Amendments to Clause 47, page 58, lines 8, 13, 20 and 21, and Clause 123, page 125, line 46. These are drafting Amendments, and the need for them arises from the fact that the reference in Clause 47 to vehicles registered under the Roads Act, 1920, does not fit the case of trailers, since trailers, unlike motor vehicles are not registered under that Act. These are drafting Amendments.
Page 58, line 6, at the beginning insert the said words.—(Lord Nathan.)
§ LORD NATHAN
The effect of the Amendments is to limit the application of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) to vehicles registered under the Act of 1920, while the terms of the proviso to subsection (1) are incorporated in a new paragraph, paragraph (b), covering trailers only. At the same time, the opportunity has been taken to transfer the definition of "superimposed trailer" from subsection (1) of Clause 47 to the interpretation Clause (Clause 123) and so avoid repetition in the proposed new Clause 55, where the expression also occurs.
§ LORD NATHAN
I could not answer a question so highly technical as that on the spur of the moment. If the noble Earl will consult with me afterwards I will ascertain more clearly what he has in mind and find an answer for him.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
It may be to your Lordships' convenience if I put the next four Amendments by the noble Lord, Lord Nathan, together.
§ Amendments moved—
Page 58, line 13, leave out (" and (b)") and insert—
(b) in the case of a trailer (other than a superimposed trailer) by deducting, where one or more complete years have elapsed between the date on which the vehicle was first put into use and the date of transfer, one-seventh of the said cost in respect of the first year and in respect of each subsequent year, one-seventh of the said cost as reduced by the total deduction falling to be made in respect of the previous years: and:
(c) in either case,")
Page 58, line 20, after ("(a)") insert ("or paragraph (b)").
§ Page 58, line 21, leave out from ("difference") to the end of line 33.—(Lord Nathan.)949
§ Clause 47, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 48 [Date and mode of payment of compensation]:
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I think that this Amendment will require a little explanation and may lead to some questions being asked. Under these circumstances I suggest that I ask leave for the House to resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume. —(Viscount Addison.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.